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News

Cost of colonoscopy for metastatic cancer of unknown primary

A study published ahead of print in the Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics determines the yield and cost of colonoscopy in patients referred for colonoscopy with an indication of metastatic cancer of unknown primary.

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Although gastroenterologists are asked to perform colonoscopy in patients with metastatic cancer of unknown primary, studies evaluating this practice are lacking.

Professor Loren Laine and colleagues from Connecticut, USA determined the yield and cost of colonoscopy in patients referred for colonoscopy with an indication of metastatic cancer of unknown primary.

The researchers prospectively and retrospectively assessed colonoscopies performed from 2000 to 2011 at a county, a university, and a Veterans Administration medical centre to identify patients referred for colonoscopy for the indication of metastatic cancer of unknown primary.

Exclusion criteria included overt or occult bleeding, iron-deficiency anaemia, familial-colon-cancer syndrome, prior colon cancer, imaging suggesting colorectal lesion, and palpable rectal mass.

1% of patients meeting enrollment criteria had a primary colon cancer identified
Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics

The team's outcomes were the number of primary colon cancers and costs based on 2012 Medicare reimbursements.

The researchers reported that 1% of the 160 patients meeting enrollment criteria had a primary colon cancer identified, and both died within 1 month after diagnosis without receiving therapy targeted at colon cancer.

The team observed that 1 patient without colon cancer had a perforation because of colonoscopy, which required surgery and colostomy.

The cost of a strategy of routinely performing colonoscopy in patients referred with metastatic cancer of unknown primary was $84,736 per colon primary identified.

Professor Laine's team concludes, "Primary colon cancer was rarely identified at colonoscopy in patients with metastatic cancer of unknown primary, and no standard indications for diagnostic colonoscopy."

"Furthermore, the cost to diagnose one additional colon primary was very high."

"Those with colon cancer had advanced disease and were unable to benefit from targeted therapy."

"Routine colonoscopy for metastatic cancer of unknown primary cannot be recommended at present."

Aliment Pharm Ther 2013: DOI: 10.1111/apt.12429
31 July 2013

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