Mention colonoscopy and most people will make a face. Prepping for it is unpleasant, so much so that some people would rather avoid it altogether.
But Group Health researchers have found an approach that removes the “ick" factor in screening.
For the past three years researchers have been mailing stool kits to patients who were overdue for colon cancer screening.
They found that when they mailed these kits, patients were more likely to use them. It boosted Group Health’s compliance with screening to 72 percent, exceeding the state’s rate of 59 percent.
“We know that physicians are more likely to offer colonoscopies than stool testing,” said Dr. Beverly Green, one of the investigators at Group Health Research Institute. But when doctors offer at-home stool kits as an alternative, screening rates improve.
Green said this is important for people living in poverty because they’re less likely to be screened for colon cancer. “We know that many patients refuse colonoscopies, particularly minority groups,” she said. “Hispanic patients do not prefer it.”
Green said it’s understandable why people avoid colonoscopies; the procedure requires taking time off from work and prepping the night before is unpleasant.
But the advantage is that it’s only done once every 10 years if no polyps are found.
On the other hand, screening using stool kits need to be done every year. And if blood is detected, a follow up colonoscopy is required.
The Group Health study is in its third year. The plan is to follow results for 10 years. Group Health is also working with community health clinics to help get more at-home kits to patients.