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Study aims to improve patient follow through for at-home screening

Kate Archer Kent

A five-year study under way at LSU Health Shreveport is trying to achieve better follow through from people who do at-home colorectal cancer screenings, year after year. The study, funded by the American Cancer Society, will provide free screening kits for up to 800 people living in rural south Louisiana. LSU Health Shreveport associate professor of medicine Connie Arnold said patients must perform the at-home test annually and send it to a lab for analysis.

"A large part of the study is not only to get them screened initially, but in follow-up years. Can you get them screened annually? That's the only way it’s truly effective.”

Arnold and her colleague, Terry Davis, a professor of medicine, are rewriting the instructions for the fecal occult blood test kit. Davis saidthe new instructions will be at a 3rd grade reading level.

“What we do is attempt to simplify it, and then we begin to work in partnership with the patients and providers, to make sure they can understand it, it lands right emotionally, it’s culturally appropriate, and so there’s a tremendous amount of back and forth. Also, pictures are huge.”

The professors are also testing whether screening reminders should come to patients via an automated phone message or a personal call from the doctor’s office. Davis said they found in a similar study that patients rarely sent test kits in for analysis after the first year's screening. She said Louisiana has the second highest death rate in the nation for colorectal cancer.