The Impact of Translated Reminder Letters and Phone Calls on Mammography Screening Booking Rates: Two Randomised Controlled Trials

PLoS One. 2020 Jan 10;15(1):e0226610. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226610. eCollection 2020.


Introduction: Participation in mammographic screening for breast cancer in Australia is approximately 54% among the general population, but screening among women from some culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds is lower. BreastScreen Victoria apply strategies to increase screening including reminder letters and phone calls; however, these are usually provided in English. Using intervention strategies generated from the Ophelia (OPtimise HEalth LIteracy and Access) community co-design process, translated mammography reminder letters and in-language phone calls were tested within two randomised control trials (RCTs).

Methods and analysis: Women aged 50-75 years who were due for their 2-yearly screening mammography (for RCT#1) or were under-screened, i.e. ≥27 months since last screen (for RCT#2) were randomised into intervention or control groups. RCT#1 compared sending women routine reminder letters (English only) with translated (Arabic or Italian) letters. RCT#2 compared reminder telephone calls to women in their preferred language (Arabic or Italian) to no telephone call. The primary outcome for each trial was screening booking rates within 14-days. Primary outcomes were tested using Pearson's chi-square test. Rates within language group (incidence ratio: IR) were compared using the Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test.

Results: For RCT#1 (letters) 1,032 women were randomised into the intervention arm or to usual care. Uptake of screening bookings was similar between both groups, with no differences observed by language group. For RCT#2 (phone calls), 195 women were randomised to the intervention group or to usual care. Overall, 64.2% of women in the intervention arm and 6% in the control arm booked a screening appointment within 14 days (p<0.0001). The IR (95%CI) of booking was 10.1 (3.9, 26.3) times higher among Italian women, and 11.6 (2.9, 46.5) times higher among Arabic women in the intervention compared to usual care groups.

Discussion and conclusion: A service improvement initiative derived from community members and breast screen providers was found to be highly effective. This evidence informed the service provider, BreastScreen Victoria, who have implemented these improvements into routine practice to improve screening among CALD groups and reduce health inequalities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Mammography*
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Reminder Systems*
  • Telephone*

Grant support

This work was supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services ( AB was supported by National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Medical Research Future Fund TRIP Fellowship, ID:1150679 ( RO was funded in part by a NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship #APP1059122. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.