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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Mammogram Due? Don't Wait on Reminder

Personalized Mailings May Not Improve Mammography Rates
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 26, 2008 -- A new study shows that even when women get personalized mailings about breast cancer screening, they may not be more motivated to get mammography.

The study included 8,444 female veterans aged 52 and older, most of whom have private health insurance.

First, the women completed a survey about their mammography history. Then they were divided into three groups.

One group of women got a packet of information about mammography in the mail about two months after completing the survey.

A second group of women also received a packet of mammography information, along with a note telling them when they were due for their next mammogram, and a newsletter addressing any concerns about mammography (such as pain and cost) that they had noted in the survey.

For comparison, the third group of women didn't get any follow-up information.

The study lasted for about three years. During that time, about 80% of the women who participated in follow-up surveys reported getting at least one mammogram. But what the researchers were really interested in was whether mailing women personalized mammography information and mammogram reminders boosted follow-up routine mammograms 12 to 15 months later.

That strategy didn't work. All three groups had similar rates of follow-up routine mammography.

After reviewing other studies, the researchers concluded that the findings "provide little support for an additional benefit of using tailored interventions, either mailed or by telephone, to increase regular mammography screening."

It's not clear why the personalized mammography intervention didn't work, or whether mammogram rates were so high in all three groups that there was little room for improvement.

Sally Vernon, PhD, and colleagues report the results in the March 5 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Vernon works in Houston for the health promotion and behavioral sciences department of the University of Texas School of Public Health.

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