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'Tis the Season for Colorectal Screening?

People Are More Likely to Get Colorectal Screening If They Get Reminders in December or Near a Birthday
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 19, 2008 -- Merry Christmas, and get a colorectal exam!

Sending reminders for colorectal screening exams during the December holiday season or near individuals' birthdays increases attendance, a new study shows.

The possible reason, say the study's authors, could be because birthdays and holidays trigger feelings about aging.

The study, conducted by professors at The Cancer Registry of Norway, is published on BMJ Online. In Norway, 20,003 participants were invited for screenings, and 12,960 attended. Attendance was higher in December (72.3% vs. 64.6% the rest of the year) and for participants who were invited in the week of their birthdays or assigned an appointment within two weeks after their birthdays (67.9% vs. 64.5% for nonbirthday invitees).

Timing Reminders for the Holidays

The authors suggest health officials schedule reminders near the holidays and/or patients' birthdays. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, and more than 1 million new cases are detected each year.

"There might be a potential for improving compliance with screening programs by playing on perception of ages or annual milestones," the authors write. "We suggest that screening programs should consider the potential benefits of timing appointments for screening in the first or second weeks after birthdays and extending working hours in December."

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