Want to boost colon cancer screening rates? Mail testing kits to patients' homes, a new study says.
Colon cancer is easily diagnosed by routine screening, such as colonoscopies and at-home stool testing.
But despite recommendations that adults get screened from ages 50 to 75, more than 33% of Americans are not up to date with screening.
Ways to increase screening include mailing screening reminders and mailing fecal immunochemical test (FIT) kits, to detect blood in stool.
For the study, researchers mailed 35,000 Medicaid patients aged 52 to 64 who were overdue for colon cancer screening a reminder or a reminder plus a FIT screening kit.
Over a year, the number of colon cancer screenings, including FITs and screening colonoscopies, was greater for the reminder plus FIT kits group (23%) than for the reminders only group (16%), the researchers found.
Mailing screening kits cost only an additional $116 per person screened, which is within the acceptable range of what decision-makers would pay for an additional person screened for colon cancer, the researchers noted.
The report was published online July 20 in the journal Cancer.
"By investing in sending the test kits with the reminder letters, health departments are expected to successfully screen more individuals for colorectal cancer at relatively low incremental costs, and Medicaid organizations are expected to actually save costs per additional person screened," said researcher Dr. Stephanie Wheeler from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"This analysis provides strong evidence that health departments and payers like Medicaid can substantially improve colorectal cancer screening in low-income and medically underserved populations at a reasonable cost, even given limited budgets, through the implementation of mailed FIT programs," Wheeler said in a journal news release.