Background and Aims: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Screening programs can reduce CRC mortality rates by up to 60%. In line with the European Union recommendations, Romania started the first four regional pilot screening programs in 2020 (the ROCCAS II projects). This study reports the interim screening performance indicators.

Methods: People aged 50 to 74 years were invited to the screening program. General practitioners (GPs) evaluated CRC risk based on a survey. High-risk or symptomatic individuals were referred directly to colonoscopy. The average risk participants received a fecal immunochemical test (FIT). Positive cases were invited to colonoscopy. Three regions were screened using the OC-SENSOR® (South-Muntenia, Bucharest-Ilfov, South-East) and one region (South-West) used the FOB GOLD®. The data was collected in the ROCCAS screening electronic registry. The following FIT parameters were evaluated: rates of return, invalidity, positivity, and colonoscopy acceptance rate according to age group, gender, region of provenience, and vulnerability status.

Results: We included all cases screened between January 1, 2022 and September 30, 2023. In total, 168,958 people received the FIT test within the projects. The global FIT return rate was 90%. Factors associated with a higher return rate were female gender (90.77% vs 88.83%, p<0.0001), vulnerable status (91.23% vs 88.83%; p<0.00001), and rural residence (91.84% vs 88.42%, p<0.00001). The overall positivity rate was 5.75%. It was higher in males (7.64% vs 4.57% in females, p<0.00001) and progressively increased with the age group. The total invalid FIT rate was 5.87%, significantly lower for OC-SENSOR® (2.24%) than for the FOB GOLD® (13.6%). The overall acceptability rate for colonoscopy was 51.3%.

Conclusions: According to our preliminary data, GP’s participation in the pilot programs ensured adequate adherence to screening through FIT. The rate for FIT return and positivity were acceptable for both tests, while the invalid rate was much higher in FOB GOLD® compared to the OC-SENSOR®. Moreover, colonoscopy acceptance needs to be improved. Our preliminary analysis revealed the screening performance indicators meet the EU recommendations and fulfill the premises for national-level expansion of the program starting in 2024.


colorectal cancer, Romania, screening, ROCCAS, FIT, colonoscopy acceptance