How To Triple Cancer Screening Participation

Colorectal cancer screenings increased substantially with reminder systems

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Doctors urge patients to start colorectal cancer screenings at age 50. But a large number of patients either ignore the recommendations or don’t get the screenings at all. Researchers have found a couple of ways to help folks get the test that could save their lives.

According to a recent study, phone calls and/or mailed reminders were enormously helpful in boosting colorectal screening rates. Individuals who received these communications were three times more likely to undergo screening than people who had not received any reminders.

"Get regular colorectal cancer screening if you're over 50."

Scientists at Thomas Jefferson University conducted the study. Ronald E. Myers, PhD, professor and director of the Division of Population Science in the Department of Medical Oncology, led a study involving 945 people between the ages of 50 and 79.

The goal of the study was to test the effectiveness of communications based on a patient’s preference compared with usual care, which doesn't include follow-up communications.

Patients had previously indicated whether they wanted to undergo a colonoscopy or a stool blood test they could take at home.

Participants were divided into three groups, with one-third receiving one of the following:

  1. A phone call encouraging them to take their preferred cancer screening test plus a mailing about that test
  2. Mailed information on colonoscopy along with an at-home stool blood test kit
  3. Usual care, which includes no additional communication regarding screenings

Researchers found that compared to patients who received no intervention, those who got a phone call and/or mailing were nearly three times as likely to undergo screening within the next six months. There was no significant difference between the phone plus mailing group and those who received only a mailing.

In terms of the actual statistics, 38 percent of patients who received a phone call about their preference went on to get the test, while 33 percent who received mailings underwent screenings. Only 12 percent of participants who received no follow-up communication had the tests.

The authors wrote, “In summary, findings from the current study indicate that mailing colorectal cancer screening materials was an effective strategy for increasing overall adherence and screening decision stage among primary care patients, as compared with usual care.”

Nearly 143,000 Americans will learn they have colorectal cancer this year.

The study was published in the January issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.

This research was supported by a National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute and  Olympus America. Stool blood tests were donated by Quest Diagnostics. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 31, 2013
Last Updated:
August 19, 2013