Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Colorectal Cancer News - Guest Blog by Dr. Martin Heslin

Martin Heslin, M.D.
An upcoming study being published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveals that personalized electronic messages sent to patients who are overdue for screenings, or mailings targeted to patients with expired orders for colonoscopies, may each increase colorectal cancer screening rates over the short term. These findings will be published in the April 11 print issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Studies have shown that colorectal cancer screening detects cancers at more curable early stages and reduces colorectal cancer mortality. However, these methods remain underused—as many as half of the 90 million Americans who would benefit have not been screened.

Colorectal cancer screening is an important public health initiative, regardless of the mechanism of screening.  This study has shown that the introduction of “personalized tele-medicine” to remind people to get screened resulted in a short-term increase in screening rates – albeit in an already successfully screened population (82%).  This is one example of the ability to use technology to improve cure rates of a cancer that is extremely curable if caught early. Inclusion of personalized screening messages in the implementation of the electronic health record should be a major focus since it is cheap, direct and appears to be effective.

Martin Heslin, M.D., is Associate Director of Clinical Programs for the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and director of UAB’s Multidisciplinary Gastrointestinal Oncology Clinic. Dr. Heslin specializes in the research and treatment of gastrointestinal cancers and soft-tissue sarcomas.

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