Feasibility and performance of the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) for average-risk colorectal cancer screening in Nigeria

Gregory C. KnappID, Olusegun Alatise, Bolatito Olopade, Marguerite Samson, Olalekan Olasehinde, Funmilola Wuraola, Oluwole O. Odujoko, Akinwunmi O. Komolafe, Olujide O. ArijeID, Philip E. Castle, J. Joshua Smith, Martin R. Weiser, T. Peter Kingham, et al.  2021 – PLUS ONE.

Introduction: There is a paucity of prospective data on the performance of the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening in sub-Saharan Africa. The aim of this exploratory analysis was to evaluate the feasibility and performance of FIT in Nigeria.

Methods: This was a prospective, single-arm study. A convenience sample of asymptomatic, average-risk individuals between 40–75 years of age were enrolled at Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital. Study participants returned in 48 hours with a specimen for ova and parasite (O&P) and qualitative FIT (50ug/g) testing. Participants with a positive FIT had follow-up colonoscopy and those with intestinal parasites were provided treatment.

Results: Between May-June 2019, 379 individuals enrolled with a median age of 51 years (IQR 46–58). In total, 87.6% (n = 332) returned for FIT testing. FIT positivity was 20.5% (95% CI = 16.3%-25.2%). Sixty-one (89.7%) of participants with a positive FIT had a follow-up colonoscopy (n = 61), of whom 9.8% (95%CI:3.7–20.2%) had an adenoma and 4.9% (95%CI:1.0– 13.7%) had advanced adenomas. Presence of intestinal parasites was inversely related to FIT positivity (6.5% with vs. 21.1% without parasites, p = 0.05). Eighty-two percent of participants found the FIT easy to use and 100% would recommend the test to eligible family or friends if available.

Conclusion: Asymptomatic, FIT-based CRC screening was feasible and well tolerated in this exploratory analysis. However, the high FIT positivity and low positive predictive value for advanced neoplasia raises concerns about its practicality and cost effectiveness in a low-resource setting such as Nigeria.

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