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June 24th, 2010
05:27 PM ET

Calls effective reminders for colon screenings

By Georgiann Caruso
CNN Medical Associate Producer

Short, low-cost, automated telephone calls are an effective way to remind people over 50 to get screened for colon cancer. Researchers use the phone reminders to encourage people to get screened for screenings anually through fecal ocult blood testing. That's according to a study from Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research that was funded by the National Cancer Institute, which looked at almost 6,000 people of average risk, meaning they did not have a history of colon cancer in their family. The study found that the calls increased screening rates by 30 percent.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S. but early detection and treatment reduce the chance of dying.

Lead study author David Mosen, Ph.D., said, "It's a cheap way to deliver a preventive message. There was movement from a pretty simple method, so there's hope to improve colon cancer screening (rates)."

That method involved the blood testing, which looks for blood in the stool, and involved people between ages 51-80, and who were overdue for screening. Some needed follow-up calls, but after six months, 22.5 percent who received phone calls completed the test; only 16 percent of those who received did not receive calls completed the test. The non-invasive tests were mailed in to a lab for screening.

This test may require less time and indicate the possibility polyps exist, but only a colonoscopy could confirm most polyps and that and remove them.

Mosen stressed that for people who have a family history of colon cancer, colonoscopy is still the gold standard method of screening. He added a follow-up colonoscopy is needed for patients who test positive on the stool card test.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening starting at age 50. Mosen says this test is for people with no family history and no gastrointestinal problems. Consult with your physician about the best method for you.

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. John

    I think that Kaiser did some other things that could easily be shown to have skewed the results in their favor. For example, in 2009 I personally saw that Kaiser Permanente had large number of pre-signed (by a physician) laboratory order slips, collection containers, and mailing envelopes on an unattended table close to their outpatient pharmacy in their Redwood City Medical Center and all of them were the same... for a fecal occult blood test.

    It seemed strange to me at the time to see lab test slips, already filled out and signed by a doctor, sitting unattended on a table in a hospital near the outpatient pharmacy as it's something I had never seen done before in my career. One other kind of peculiar aspect of Kaiser's Redwood City campus is that the population it serves is remarkably older than most of the population of Northern California.

    Anyhow, I just thought this was worth pointing out. Am not sure when the experimental period was for the study, but it was pretty odd for any healthcare organization to put out hundreds of pre-signed lab slips for this specific test.

    June 24, 2010 at 23:27 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.