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Ann Fam Med. 2012 Sep-Oct;10(5):412-7. doi: 10.1370/afm.1381.

Program to improve colorectal cancer screening in a low-income, racially diverse population: a randomized controlled trial.

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA.


PURPOSE More effective strategies are needed to improve rates of colorectal cancer screening, particularly among the poor, racial and ethnic minorities, and individuals with limited English proficiency. We examined whether the direct mailing of fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) kits to patients overdue for such screening is an effective way to improve screening in this population. METHODS All adults aged 50 to 80 years who did not have documentation of being up to date with colorectal cancer screening as of December 31, 2009, and who had had at least 2 visits to the community health center in the prior 18 months were randomized to the outreach intervention or usual care. Patients in the outreach group were mailed a colorectal cancer fact sheet and FOBT kit. Patients in the usual care group could be referred for screening during usual clinician visits. The primary outcome was completion of colorectal cancer screening (by FOBT, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy) 4 months after initiation of the outreach protocol. Outcome measures were compared using the Fisher exact test. RESULTS Analyses were based on 104 patients assigned to the outreach intervention and 98 patients assigned to usual care. In all, 30% of patients in the outreach group completed colorectal cancer screening during the study period, compared with 5% of patients in the usual care group (P <.001). Nearly all of the screenings were by FOBT. The groups did not differ significantly with respect to the percentage of patients making a clinician visit or the percentage for whom a clinician placed an order for a screening test. CONCLUSIONS The mailing of FOBT kits directly to patients was efficacious for promoting colorectal cancer screening among a population with high levels of poverty, limited English proficiency, and racial and ethnic diversity. Non-visit-based outreach to patients may be an important strategy to address suboptimal rates of colorectal cancer screening among populations most at risk for not being screened.

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