The implementation and mechanisms of advance notifications for cancer screening: a scoping review

Research Snapshots of Health Systems and Behavioural Research

What is known?

Previous research shows that informing people ahead of time that they will soon be due for cancer screening encourages more people to screen; however, it is currently unclear why this is the case. Understanding how this strategy, known as advance notification, really works can help inform our attempts to make it even more effective, and encourage more Australians to take part in cancer screening.

This review reported on the features of advance notifications that have been used in attempt to increase participation in cancer screening tests. It also described whether these notifications were effective at increasing screening and mapped the characteristics of effective versus ineffective notifications.

What is new?

This review captured 33 unique advance notifications used to encourage participation in cancer screening. Key findings include:

  • The majority of advance notifications are sent via postal mail, about 2 weeks before an invitation to participate in bowel cancer screening.
  • Of the studies that explored the effectiveness of the advance notifications, most (68%) were found to increase screening participation.
  • The characteristics of effective and ineffective advance notifications were very similar, although notifications sent prior to screening for cancers other than bowel cancer tended to be less effective.

What does this mean?

Future research should broaden the study of advance notifications to examine non-bowel cancers and alternative formats such as SMS or email. Research should also explore whether individual differences (such as previous screening experience) play a role in the effectiveness of advance notifications.

Contact: Katelyn Collins

Reference: Collins, K. E., Myers, L.S., Goodwin, B.C., Taglieri-Sclocchi, A., Ireland, M.J. The implementation and mechanisms of advance notification for cancer screening: a scoping review. Psychooncology. 2024;e6340.

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