TUESDAY, July 14, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Breast cancer screenings increased more than 17 percent through the use of a reminder program for women who were due for a mammogram, a new U.S. study shows.
Kaiser Permanente staff checked electronic health records of its 35,000 members to identify women aged 50 to 69 who hadn't had a mammogram for 20 months. They were sent a postcard reminder. If they didn't make an appointment within a month, they received an automated reminder call. If they didn't respond to that in a month, they received another automated reminder call. If they still didn't make an appointment, they received a phone call from a clerk in the radiology department.
Within 10 months of the first reminder notices being sent, more than 75 percent of the women had come in for mammograms, compared to 63.4 percent before the start of the reminder program. After the second year of the program, 80.6 percent of the women had come in for mammograms.
The study appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"We know mammograms are effective, but too many women put them off, even when they have health insurance," study author Dr. Adrianne Feldstein, an investigator at Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., said in a news release.
"This study is the first to show that these reminder programs can be effective in such a large group of women. If we could improve the country's mammography rate by the same amount, we could detect as many as 25,000 additional cases of breast cancer a year," she said.
Regular mammograms can reduce breast cancer deaths by more than 30 percent. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends breast cancer screenings every one to two years for women over age 40. However, current screening rates are well below the guidelines.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer screening.