The aim of this study was three-fold: (a) to present a surveillance plan for colorectal cancer prevention with colonoscopy, focused on first-degree relatives of colorectal cancer patients in the province of Ferrara (Italy); (b) to analyse the cost of colonoscopy at the University Hospital of Ferrara; and (c) to analyse the cost of the surveillance plan in our province. In January 2000, in the province of Ferrara, following a campaign of public sensitization, a plan of surveillance with colonoscopy was started, addressing the population at an increased risk for colorectal cancer (i.e. over 45-year-old first-degree relatives of patients with either colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps revealed before 60 years of age). In addition, we estimated the cost of colonoscopy both at the University Hospital of Ferrara and of the surveillance plan. Between January 2000 and October 2003, 585 individuals at increased risk were interviewed. Five hundred and forty-four (94%) accepted to undergo a colonoscopy. By October 2003, 439 (81%) colonoscopies had been performed. Colonoscopy was normal in 330 individuals (75%). In 109 individuals (25%), 144 lesions were found: 35 patients (32%) had hyperplastic polyps, 66 (61%) had adenomas, and eight (7%) adenocarcinomas (six Dukes A, one Dukes B, and one Dukes C stage). Out of a total of 101 adenomas, 68 were tubular adenomas (67%), 24 tubulo-villous adenomas (24%), and nine adenomas with high-grade dysplasia (9%). The cost of colonoscopy at our hospital and the costs of the surveillance plan amounted to euro 130.84 (euro 169.57 with single biopsy) and euro 43,103.66 (euro 42 310.34/year), respectively. These data show (a) the efficacy of colonoscopy in the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer and premalignant lesions in first-degree relatives of colorectal cancer patients; (b) the low cost of colonoscopy at the centre performing the surveillance; and (c) the feasibility of screening and surveillance programmes for colorectal cancer prevention.
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