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Text reminders boost breast cancer screening attendance

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Women who receive a text message reminding them about their breast cancer screening appointment are 20% more likely to attend than other patients, according to a UK study.

Researchers trialled the text message reminders for women, aged 47-53 years old, who were invited for their first appointment for breast cancer screening.  They compared around 450 women who were sent a text with 435 women who were not texted.

They found that 72% of women who were sent a text message reminder attended their screening appointment, compared with 60% who were not. 

“Research like this can help tackle practical barriers that sometimes stop women from attending screening appointments”

Julie Sharp

Text message reminders had the biggest impact on women from the most deprived areas who were 28% more likely to attend their first screening appointment if they were sent a text.

In addition, the study found that women were almost three times more likely to cancel their appointment in advance if they were sent a text message reminder.

Lead author Robert Kerrison, from University College London, said: “Our research found that a cheap, simple text-message-reminder could boost the number of women – especially those from deprived areas – attending screening, or cancelling in advance. Texting could save valuable NHS resources.”

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, added: “Research like this can help tackle practical barriers that sometimes stop women from attending screening appointments.”

The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, was funded by the Imperial College Healthcare Charity, which represents the five London hospitals run by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

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