Public Release: 

Text message reminders boost breast cancer screening attendance

Cancer Research UK

Women who received a text message reminding them about their breast cancer screening appointment were 20 per cent more likely to attend than those who were not texted, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer today (Thursday)*.

Researchers, funded by the Imperial College Healthcare Charity, trialled text message reminders for women aged 47-53 years old who were invited for their first appointment for breast cancer screening.

The team compared around 450 women who were sent a text with 435 women who were not texted**. It found that 72 per cent of women who were sent a text message reminder attended their screening appointment, compared with 60 per cent who were not.

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

The research 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, at the Cancer Research UK health behaviour unit at UCL, said: "We all forget things now and then, and doctor's appointments are no exception - in fact, forgetting is one of the most commonly cited reasons why women miss breast cancer screening appointments.

"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. More trials are needed to confirm this, but texting could save valuable NHS resources."

Ian Lush, chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare Charity, said: "The potential positive impact the study could have on the UK population's health is huge and goes far beyond the borders of London where the text message service was originally trialled. Research outcomes like this confirm the need for the charity to continue funding such pioneering work which will continue to help improve the health of the population."

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK's head of health information, said: "Research like this can help tackle practical barriers that sometimes stop women from attending screening appointments. Cancer screening can save lives, but it's important to remember there are risks as well as benefits. People should also receive good quality information to help them decide whether to take up a screening invitation."

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For media enquiries contact Emily Head in the BJC press office on 020 3469 6189 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

Notes to editor:

* Kerrison et al. Text-message reminders increase uptake of routine breast screening appointments: A Randomised Controlled Trial in a hard-to-reach population. British Journal of Cancer. DOI: 10.1038/ bjc.2015.36.

** In the group of around 450 women texted 380 had an active mobile number and received the text. The group of 435 women who were not texted had a mobile number registered with their GP, but because they were not texted it was not possible to find the number of women with active mobile numbers.

About the British Journal of Cancer (BJC)

The BJC is owned by Cancer Research UK. Its mission is to encourage communication of the very best cancer research from laboratories and clinics in all countries. Broad coverage, its editorial independence and consistent high standards have made BJC one of the world's premier general cancer journals. http://www.bjcancer.com

About the Imperial College Healthcare Charity

Imperial College Healthcare Charity raises and manages charitable funds for five London hospitals within Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust: Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte's & Chelsea, St Mary's and Western Eye hospitals. Since 2009, the charity has awarded close to £12million in grants to over 260 pieces of clinical research and healthcare projects across the trust hospitals, all of which aim to improve patient healthcare. For more information about the charity, visit: http://www.imperialcharity.org.uk

About Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK is the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.

Cancer Research UK's pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.

Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.

Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years.

Today, 2 in 4 people survive cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK's ambition is to accelerate progress so that 3 in 4 people will survive cancer within the next 20 years.

Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.

Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit http://www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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