Telephone counseling and attendance in a national mammography-screening program a randomized controlled trial

Am J Prev Med. 2011 Oct;41(4):421-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2011.06.040.


Background: In Germany, a mammography-screening program (MSP) was implemented on a national level. It complies with all criteria of the European guidelines for quality assurance in screening mammography; however, the attendance rate is 54%, falling short of the target attendance rate of 70%. The aim of this study was to investigate whether additional telephone counseling improves attendance among nonresponders and the level of satisfaction with telephone counseling.

Design: In a prospective RCT, women identified as nonresponders in the MSP were randomized to a control group that received written reminders or to an intervention group that additionally received telephone counseling. In a follow-up, a subset of the intervention group was contacted by telephone regarding their satisfaction with telephone counseling.

Setting/participants: In 2008, a total of 5477 women aged 50-69 years who were eligible for the German MSP but had not participated up to 6 weeks after the first invitation were included in the study.

Interventions: Individual telephone counseling consisted of scripted calls from a trained counselor who provided information on MSP and answered the woman's questions.

Main outcome measures: Report of mammography use provided by the screening unit 3 months after the reminder was sent.

Results: Analysis was conducted in 2009. Comparison of screening attendance revealed a significantly higher attendance rate in the intervention group compared with controls (29.7% vs 26.1%, p=0.0035). When only women for whom telephone numbers were available were analyzed, attendance was even better (35.5% vs 29.7%, p=0.0004). In the follow-up, 278 of 404 women were actually surveyed. Of those, 33% stated that telephone counseling had influenced their decision, 56% stated that they had undergone screening mammography, and 77% agreed that personal telephone counseling should be used routinely to encourage nonresponders to go for screening.

Conclusions: Individual telephone counseling for nonresponders to a national program for breast cancer screening was well accepted by participants and effective.

Trial registration: This study is registered at the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12611000645954.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Germany
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mass Screening / organization & administration*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reminder Systems
  • Telephone*