Introduction: Only about half of all eligible Americans have been screened for colorectal cancer (CRC). The objective of this study was to test whether mailed educational materials and a fecal immunochemical test (FIT), with or without a scripted telephone reminder, led to FIT testing. In addition, we compared changes in attitudes toward, readiness for, and barriers to screening from baseline to follow-up after education about screening.
Methods: Subjects due for CRC screening were recruited from 16 Iowa Research Network family physician offices. Half of the subjects were randomized to receive mailed written and DVD educational materials, along with a FIT, either with or without a telephone call designed to encourage screening and address barriers. Subjects completed surveys regarding their attitudes and readiness for CRC screening at baseline and after education about screening. The main outcome was whether the subject completed FIT testing.
Results: A total of 373 individuals received educational materials (including a FIT) and 231 (62%) returned a posteducation survey. The mean age was 61.2 years; 52% were women, 99% were white, 39% had a high school education or less, 39% had a total family income of less than $40,000, and 7% had no insurance. The written materials were read by 82%, understood by 91% (of those who read them), and 82% felt their knowledge was increased. The DVD was viewed by 67%, understood by 94% of those who viewed it, and 86% felt the DVD increased their knowledge. Compared with baseline, individuals reported being significantly more likely to bring up CRC screening at their next doctor's visit (P < .0001) and being more likely to be tested for CRC in the next 6 months (P < .0001). Comparing baseline with follow-up, summary attitude scores improved (P < .0001), readiness scores improved (P < .0001), and there were fewer barriers (P = .034, Wilcoxon signed rank). The FIT return rate increased from 0% to 45.2% in the education alone group and from 0% to 48.7% for the group receiving education plus the telephone call (P < .0001 for each group individually and overall when compared with Medicare beneficiaries in Iowa).
Conclusions: Mailing FIT kits with easy-to-understand educational materials improved attitudes toward screening and dramatically increased CRC screening rates among patients who were due for screening in a practice-based research network. A telephone call addressing barriers to screening did not result in increased FIT testing compared with mailed education alone.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01477814.