Objective: Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is a well-known hereditary colorectal cancer-predisposing syndrome. Genetic testing for colorectal cancer risk is now part of standard medical practice, but very little is known about the economic impact of this technology. The aim of this study was to assess, from a healthcare system perspective, the direct costs of two strategies for screening at-risk relatives of FAP patients: clinical screening versus genetic testing for FAP.
Methods: A systematic review of the literature was carried out. Additional information was gathered from experts in research and clinical laboratories and in hospital departments. A decision tree was constructed to compare per-person and per-family costs of the two strategies for screening at-risk relatives of FAP patients. Sensitivity analysis was performed to assess the stability of the model across the full range of plausible values for all key parameters.
Results: According to the decision analysis, with FAP screening starting at puberty, the average screening costs are $3,181 and $2,259 (Canadian dollars), respectively, for the clinical screening and the genetic testing strategies. Genetic screening is cost saving up to a first screening age of 36. Sensitivity analysis shows that the results of the baseline analysis hold across a variety of assumptions concerning the parameter values.
Conclusions: The genetic testing strategy is cost saving relative to the clinical screening alternative. Apart from its lower costs, it is associated with many other benefits. Accordingly, under predefined conditions, predictive genetic testing seems to be the optimal screening strategy for FAP.