Colorectal cancer screening among ethnically diverse, low-income patients: a randomized controlled trial

Arch Intern Med. 2011 May 23;171(10):906-12. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.201.


Background: Patient navigators may increase colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates among adults in underserved communities, but prior randomized trials have been small or conducted at single sites and have not included substantial numbers of Haitian Creole-speaking or Portuguese-speaking patients.

Methods: We identified 465 primary care patients from 4 community health centers and 2 public hospital-based clinics who were not up-to-date with CRC screening and spoke English, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, or Spanish as their primary language. We enrolled participants from September 1, 2008, through March 31, 2009, and followed them up for 1 year after enrollment. We randomly allocated patients to receive a patient navigation-based intervention or usual care. Intervention patients received an introductory letter from their primary care provider with educational material, followed by telephone calls from a language-concordant navigator. The navigators offered patients the option of being screened by fecal occult blood testing or colonoscopy. The primary outcome was completion of any CRC screening within 1 year. Secondary outcomes included the proportions of patients screened by colonoscopy who had adenomas or cancer detected.

Results: During a 1-year period, intervention patients were more likely to undergo CRC screening than control patients (33.6% vs 20.0%; P < .001), to be screened by colonoscopy (26.4% vs 13.0%; P < .001), and to have adenomas detected (8.1% vs 3.9%; P = .06). In prespecified subgroup analyses, the navigator intervention was particularly beneficial for patients whose primary language was other than English (39.8% vs 18.6%; P < .001) and black patients (39.7% vs 16.7%; P = .004).

Conclusions: Patient navigation increased completion of CRC screening among ethnically diverse patients. Targeting patient navigation to black and non-English-speaking patients may be a useful approach to reducing disparities in CRC screening.

Trial registration: Identifier: NCT01141114.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colonoscopy / methods
  • Colonoscopy / statistics & numerical data
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Communication Barriers
  • Community Health Centers
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / organization & administration*
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Poverty
  • Program Evaluation
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Teaching Materials

Associated data