Take-at-home test boosts colorectal cancer screening rates for minority patients, study finds

The use of a take-at-home test led to a more than 1,000 percent jump in colorectal cancer screening rates among patients at a Philadelphia-based urban community health center, according to study findings recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. 

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine evaluated 444 patients between the ages of 50 and 74 who had visited the community health center within the last year and were due for colorectal cancer screening. Nearly 90 percent of study participants were Black and half were Medicaid beneficiaries. The study analyzed whether mailing a fecal immunochemical test kit to patients' homes combined with text message reminders to mail back the test would increase colorectal cancer screening rates. 

After 12 weeks, researchers found the effort led to an absolute 17.3 percentage point increase in screening rates and a 17.7 percentage point increase in the test kit return rate, compared to the control group that was only sent a standard text message reminder that they were due for colorectal cancer screening. Just 2 percent of patients in the control group went for a colonoscopy or completed a FIT kit by the end of the study period, according to the research findings published Jan. 28. 

"Colorectal cancer screening rates remain limited in underserved populations, which includes those in the clinic we partnered with," said Shivan Mehta, MD, study author and associate chief innovation officer at Penn Medicine. "We saw that there is an opportunity to use text messaging and new insights from behavioral science to increase uptake." 

To view the full study, click here.

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