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Colonoscopy 'Coaches' Play Lifesaving Role

Patients who got calls from those who had gotten procedure were more likely to keep first appointment

FRIDAY, Jan. 25, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Patients who have had a colonoscopy can help encourage other people to undergo the screening for colorectal cancer, say University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine researchers.

They found that people who received telephone mentoring from a trained "peer coach" who'd had a colonoscopy were two times more likely to keep their first colonoscopy appointment than people who only received an educational brochure about colonoscopy or those who received no brochure or peer support.

The findings were published in the January issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

"This study addresses an important gap in colorectal cancer prevention in the United States -- patients who don't follow through with their appointments," lead author Dr. Barbara J. Turner, a professor of medicine, said in a prepared statement. "This is one of the first studies to show that patients can help other patients overcome barriers to getting tests that can prevent this deadly disease."

Before they started calling patients, the five peer coaches in the study learned about communication strategies, colorectal cancer biology, screening modalities and potential barriers to colonoscopy.

The coaches, who used a scripted guide, called people who were scheduled to have a colonoscopy within two weeks.

The study found that almost 70 percent of people who received the telephone peer counseling kept their colonoscopy appointment, compared with 58 percent of those who only received an information brochure and 48 percent of people who received no brochure or peer support.

A follow-up found that 80 percent of patients who received telephone peer counseling found it "very helpful." Most appreciated hearing about another patient's colonoscopy experience and noted that they needed more information than was provided by their doctor.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about colonoscopy.

SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, news release, Jan. 7, 2008
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