Take-at-home tests boost colorectal cancer screening tenfold

By making it the default to send screening tests to patients’ homes unless they opted out via text message, screening rates increased by more than 1000%.

Colorectal cancer screening rates jumped by more than 1000% when researchers sent take-at-home tests to patients overdue for testing at a community health center that predominantly serves people of color. Instead of the oft-standard text message that simply reminds a patient that they are overdue for screening, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine made it the default to send a take-at-home test to the patient’s home unless they opted out via a text message prompt. The research was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Four empty vials for human stool samples.

“Colorectal cancer screening rates remain limited in underserved populations, which includes those in the clinic we partnered with,” says Shivan Mehta, associate chief innovation officer at Penn Medicine and an assistant professor of medicine. “We saw that there is an opportunity to use text messaging and new insights from behavioral science to increase uptake.”

Colorectal cancer can be especially deadly if it is not discovered early enough for curative treatment. Across the United States, regular screening rates are relatively low, particularly in community health centers, where less than half of eligible patients are up-to-date. One study, in particular, found that the number of deaths from colorectal cancer among Black people was 40% higher than in white people, and 100% higher than in Asian/Pacific Islanders.

This story is by Frank Otto. Read more at Penn Medicine News.