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Home | Ontario | Your Dollars At Work | Research Saves Lives | Improving Screening Mammography Follow Up Rates in B.C. One Physician Letter at a Time

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Improving Screening Mammography Follow Up Rates in B.C. One Physician Letter at a Time

Dr. Wendy Parulekar Dr. Christine Wilson

Screening mammography is the best tool for the early detection of breast cancer. However, the British Columbia screening mammography rate is still below the national target of 70 per cent.

Forty three per cent of women aged 50-69 years who had a normal initial mammogram do not return by 30 months,“ says Dr. Christine Wilson, Radiologist and Medical Director, Screening Mammography Program, BC Cancer Agency. “Effective methods are needed to encourage women to participate in screening mammograms on a regular basis.

So what influences screening participation rates? The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – BC/Yukon Region funded research project, focuses on the way women in the province of B.C. receive reminders to let them know it is time to get their mammogram. The research team is exploring whether a reminder letter from a woman’s primary care physician will encourage more women to participate in screening mammography as compared to the current Screening Mammography Program of B.C. (SMPBC) generic reminder letter.

This research will directly benefit women in B.C. by helping SMPBC optimize its reminder system and, hopefully, improve the provincial screening mammography rate,“ says Wilson. “Feedback we received from primary care physicians to date has already highlighted outdated mailing addresses in the SMPBC database which has led to the improvement of the way SMPBC sends information to these women.

Results from the research can change the way women in the province are notified about their overdue mammograms and have a direct impact on screening mammography rates not only in B.C. but also across Canada.

Our findings have the potential to influence not only how we in B.C. send out reminders but also how other provinces approach their screening mammography reminder systems,” says Dr. Wilson.

About The Grant

Dr. Christine Wilson and the research team received a clinical grant to support the completion of this project. A primary care physician letter has been developed using data from focus groups in B.C. that encourages women to participate in screening mammography again. This letter will be tested to see if it is more effective than the current Screening Mammography Program of B.C. (SMPBC) reminder letter. The SMPBC has information on women aged 50-69 years who had a normal initial screening mammogram, but who are overdue to return despite multiple SMPBC generic reminder letters. This will be the target group for the study. A primary care physician letter will be addressed to the overdue women and individually signed by the primary care physician with a return address from their office. Half of the women in the target group will receive the SMPBC generic reminder letter (control group) and the other half will receive the primary care physician letter (experimental group). 

The goal is to determine if the screening mammography rate improves when women receive a letter from their primary care physician compared to the SMPBC. There will also be other analyses to see if there are specific groups of women who are more likely to respond to the primary care physician letter.

Information About The Research Team:

  • Dr. Elisa Chan, Radiation Oncologist, Saint John Regional Hospital, Saint John, New Brunswick

  • Dr. Alan Nichol, Clinical Associate Professor, University of British Columbia, Radiation Oncology, BC Cancer Agency

  • Dr. Scott Tyldesley, Clinical Associate Professor, University of British Columbia, Radiation Oncology, BC Cancer Agency