Promoting mammography: results of a randomized trial of telephone counseling and a medical practice intervention

Am J Prev Med. 2000 Jul;19(1):39-46. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(00)00150-1.


Background: Despite widespread promotion of mammography screening, a distinct minority of women have remained underusers of this effective preventive measure. We sought to measure the effects of barrier-specific telephone counseling (BSTC) and a physician-based educational intervention (MD-ED) on mammography utilization among underusers of mammography screening.

Design: This was a randomized controlled trial. Women meeting criteria for mammography underuse at baseline (grouped by practice affiliation) were randomized to a reminder control condition (RC group received annual mailed reminders), BSTC or MD-ED interventions and followed for 3 years. Underuse was defined by failure to get two annual or biannual mammograms over a 2- to 4-year period prior to a baseline survey.

Participants and setting: The study included 1655 female underusers of mammography aged 50-80 years who were members of two health maintenance organizations (HMO) in central Massachusetts.

Interventions: BSTC consisted of periodic brief, scripted calls from trained counselors to women who had not had a mammogram in the preceding 15 months. Women could receive up to three annual calls during the study. MD-ED consisted of physician and office staff trainings aimed at improving counseling skills and office reminder systems.

Main outcome measure: Self-report of mammography use during the study period was the main outcome measure. Regular use was defined as > or =1 mammogram every 24 months.

Results: Forty-four percent in each intervention group became regular users compared to 42% in the RC group. Among subjects who had prior but not recent mammograms at baseline, BSTC was effective (OR=1.48; 95% CI=1.04; 2. 10), and MD-ED marginally effective (OR=1.28; 95% CI=0.88, 1.85). Most recent users at baseline and few never users became regular users (61% and 17%, respectively) regardless of intervention status.

Conclusions: Among mammography underusers BSTC modestly increases utilization for former users at a reasonable cost ($726 per additional regular user).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Counseling*
  • Effect Modifier, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mammography / economics
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Massachusetts
  • Middle Aged
  • Telephone