Educational videotapes and brochures about colon cancer screening may help more people choose to have the tests done, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that people who viewed an 11-minute video on colon cancer and cancer screening and received brochures on the topic were more likely to have a test done than people who had not been part of the intervention.
The study, which took place at three primary care practices, also required the involvement of the doctor and office staff. Eligible patients’ charts were marked according to their level of interest in cancer screening: a green marker indicated that the patient wanted to schedule a test right away, a yellow marker meant they may be interested in screening, and red markers were affixed to the charts of people with no interest in screening. The chart marker was then used to encourage discussion on the topic.
After 3 months, researchers checked to see how many patients had a colon cancer screening test done. In that time, 37% of patients who saw the video had completed a screening test, compared to 23% of patients in the control group, who instead saw a video on automobile safety.
“Our results suggest that performance of colon cancer screening can be increased by an intervention that informs patients, allows them to participate in the decision about how to be screened, and helps providers and staff act on the decision,” write the researchers. Their findings appeared in the November 21 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The researchers note that more than 60% of the people in the group who saw the video on screening did not end up having a test done.
In many cases, people don’t think about scheduling a cancer screening until their doctor recommends a test, according to Robert Smith, PhD, director of cancer screening at the American Cancer Society.
“Patients are highly responsive to their doctor’s recommendations,” Smith says. Doctors should talk to their patients about the importance of screening, how often they should have certain tests, and how to schedule them.
Colon cancer tests like sigmoidoscopies and colonoscopies are specialized exams done by gastroenterologists rather than primary care physicians. This means that people have to schedule a visit with another doctor, which may make people avoid screening. Also, Smith says, these tests can be expensive, which is another factor that can contribute to low rates of colon cancer screening.
Smith says that low rates of screening don’t necessarily mean that people aren’t interested in the tests, but that other factors may complicate the matter. Helping people learn more about cancer screening is a way to get rates up. “People are eager to have information about these tests and are quite responsive,” he says.
Article By: Erin King