Patient education for colon cancer screening: a randomized trial of a video mailed before a physical examination

UMMS Affiliation

Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine; School of Public Health; Department of Family Medicine and Community Health; Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Aged; Colorectal Neoplasms; Female; Humans; Male; *Mass Screening; Middle Aged; Patient Education as Topic; *Sigmoidoscopy; *Videotape Recording


Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


BACKGROUND: Colorectal cancer screening is underused, and primary care clinicians are challenged to provide patient education within the constraints of busy practices. OBJECTIVE: To test the effect of an educational video, mailed to patients' homes before a physical examination, on performance of colorectal cancer screening, particularly sigmoidoscopy. DESIGN: Randomized, controlled trial. SETTING: 5 primary care practices in central Massachusetts. PARTICIPANTS: 938 patients age 50 to 74 years who were scheduled for an upcoming physical examination, had no personal history of colorectal cancer, and were eligible for lower-endoscopy screening according to current guidelines. INTERVENTION: Participants were randomly assigned to receive usual care (n = 488) or a video about colorectal cancer, the importance of early detection, and screening options (n = 450). MEASUREMENTS: Baseline and 6-month follow-up telephone assessments were conducted. A dependent variable classified screening since baseline as 1) sigmoidoscopy with or without other tests, 2) another test or test combination, or 3) no tests. RESULTS: Overall screening rates were the same in the intervention and control groups (55%). In regression modeling, intervention participants were nonsignificantly more likely to complete sigmoidoscopy alone or in combination with another test (odds ratio, 1.22 [95% CI, 0.88 to 1.70]). Intervention dose (viewing at least half of the video) was significantly related to receiving sigmoidoscopy with or without another test (odds ratio, 2.81 [CI, 1.85 to 4.26]). Recruitment records showed that at least 23% of people coming for periodic health assessments were currently screened by a lower-endoscopy procedure and therefore were not eligible. LIMITATIONS: The primary care sample studied consisted primarily of middle-class white persons who had high screening rates at baseline. The results may not be generalizable to other populations. The trial was conducted during a period of increased health insurance coverage for lower-endoscopy procedures and public media attention to colon cancer screening. CONCLUSIONS: A mailed video had no effect on the overall rate of colorectal cancer screening and only modestly improved sigmoidoscopy screening rates among patients in primary care practices.

DOI of Published Version



Ann Intern Med. 2004 Nov 2;141(9):683-92.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Annals of internal medicine

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Link to article in PubMed

PubMed ID