Text Message Reminders Help More British Women Keep Screening Appointments

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A study done in England suggests that women are much more likely to keep a breast cancer screening appointment if they’re sent a text message reminder about it.

The study was published in the March 17, 2015 issue of the British Journal of Cancer. Read the abstract of “Text-message reminders increase uptake of routine breast screening appointments: a randomised controlled trial in a hard-to-reach population.”

As part of the United Kingdom, England has national health care, called the National Health System (NHS). In England, the NHS invites all women ages 47 to 73 to be screened for breast cancer every 3 years.

In the United States, guidelines call for all women ages 40 and older to have screening mammograms every year.

The study involved 891 women ages 47 to 53 who were invited to have their first breast cancer screening.

  • 456 women were sent a reminder text 48 hours before the appointment
  • 435 women didn’t receive a reminder text

The results:

  • 72% of women who were sent a reminder text attended their screening appointments
  • 60% of women who didn’t get a reminder text attended their screening appointments

This difference was statistically significant, which means that it was likely due to the reminder texts and not just because of chance.

The reminder text messages had the biggest effect on low-income women: these women were 28% more likely to keep their screening appointments if they were sent a text.

"We all forget things now and then, and doctor's appointments are no exception -- in fact, forgetting is one of the most commonly cited reasons why women miss breast cancer screening appointments,” said Robert Kerrison, of Cancer Research UK and the study’s lead author. "Our research found that a cheap, simple text-message-reminder could boost the number of women…attending screening, or cancelling in advance.”

If you're 40 or older and have an average risk of breast cancer, yearly screening mammograms should be part of your healthcare. If your breast cancer risk is higher than average, you may want to talk to your doctor about a more aggressive breast cancer screening plan that makes the most sense for your particular situation.

There's only one of you and you deserve the best care possible. Don't let any obstacles get in the way of regular screening mammograms.

  • If you're worried about cost, talk to your doctor, a local hospital social worker, or staff members at a mammogram center. Ask about free programs in your area.
  • If you're having problems scheduling a mammogram, call the National Cancer Institute (800-4-CANCER) or the American College of Radiology (800-227-5463) to find certified mammogram providers near you.
  • If you find mammograms painful, ask the mammography center staff members how the experience can be as easy and as comfortable as possible for you.
  • If you’re likely to forget about your mammogram appointment, ask if the mammogram center can send you a reminder text or give you a reminder phone call.

For more information on mammograms and other tests to detect breast cancer, visit the Breastcancer.org Breast Cancer Tests: Screening, Diagnosis, and Monitoring pages.



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