Better Minority Cancer Screening a Phone Call Away

Reminding women it's time for mammogram or Pap smear works, experts say

MONDAY, April 17, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Simple reminder phone calls from health workers can boost breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening rates among minority and low-income women, a new study shows.

The study included more than 1,400 women, aged 50 to 69, who were patients at 11 community health centers in New York City. Their records indicated they were overdue for cancer screening. Sixty percent of the women were Spanish-speaking and several were recent immigrants to the United States.

Some of the women were assigned to receive telephone calls from bilingual prevention-care managers while other women did not receive any phone calls. The women in the intervention group received an average of four calls.

Eighteen months later, screening rates had increased 12 percent for mammographies, 7 percent for Pap tests, and 13 percent for colorectal screenings among women who had received the phone calls, which the researchers said were low-cost and highly effective.

"This study represents a promising step toward addressing the clear-cut disparity in cancer screening rates and death rates for certain low-income and minority groups," study author Dr. Allen Dietrich, a professor of community and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, said in a prepared statement.

"Our team found that telephone support can increase the historically low cancer screening rates for minority women. We are hopeful that this model can be transferred to other populations who could benefit from this type of outreach," he said.

"What makes this study so exciting is that we reached a population that has always had access problems and we showed that with the right care, attention and support, we were able to substantially reduce their barriers to cancer screening," study co-author Dr. Jonathon Tobin, head of the Clinical Directors Network in New York City, said in a prepared statement.

These barriers include lack of information on how to ask for a screening or schedule it. Many of the women in the study staid they had trouble communicating with their doctor.

The findings were published in the April 18 online edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer screening.

Robert Preidt

Robert Preidt

Published on April 17, 2006

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