Offering both colonoscopy and at-home tests doubled colorectal cancer screening

In a Penn Medicine trial analyzing how messages were framed in an underserved population, offering colorectal cancer screening options resulted in the highest screening rate.

The rate of colorectal cancer screenings more than doubled when patients were given a choice between which type of screening they wanted—a take-home kit or colonoscopy—compared to those who were only offered the colonoscopy, according to new research led by the Perelman School of Medicine. Facilitated through a community health center in which about half of patients had Medicaid insurance, the study—published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatologyprovides insights about how to boost screenings among groups that are typically less likely to have the test.

Two medical professional looking at a screen during a colonoscopy.
Image: Courtesy of Penn Medicine News

“Offering the choice of colonoscopy or take-home kits seem to have the advantage of maximizing the rates of colonoscopy—the most effective screening tool—while not overloading individuals with too much of a choice, which could have lowered overall participation,” said the study’s lead author, Shivan Mehta, Penn Medicine’s associate chief innovation officer and an associate professor of gastroenterology.

The study was conducted among 738 patients aged between 50 and 74 at a community health center in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Researchers described the population as being “socioeconomically underserved,” with about half the patients receiving Medicaid, and a baseline screening rate before the trial of about 22%, much lower than the national average, which is about 72%.

Despite the promising outcome from this study, there’s still more work to do. “There are certainly colonoscopy access issues across the country due to recovery from a slowdown during the pandemic and the expansion of screening recommendations for the younger population, but it might affect community health center populations more,” Mehta says. “Colonoscopy is important for screening, diagnosis of symptoms, and follow-up of positive stool testing, but we should think about offering less invasive options as an alternative and as a choice if we want to increase screening rates.”

Read more at Penn Medicine News.