Breast cancer screenings boosted by text message reminders

A new study published in the British Journal of Cancer has revealed that text message reminders are having a massive impact on breast cancer screenings across the UK.

Women who received a text message prior to their appointment were 20 per cent more likely to attend than those who didn’t. The study, which had 985 female participants, is expected to encourage hospitals and doctors surgeries across the country to adopt a similar reminder service.

In its research, the Imperial College Healthcare Charity in London focused on women aged 47 to 53 years old, all of whom had been invited to their first appointment for breast cancer screening. Approximately 450 women were sent a text message reminder, while 435 did not. The results show that almost three quarters (72 per cent) of the women sent a text attended their screening, compared with the 60 per cent attendance rate among those who were not, reports.

“We all forget things now and then, and doctor’s appointments are no exception – in fact, forgetting is one of the most commonly cited reasons why women miss breast cancer screening appointments,” said lead author Robert Kerrison, a PhD student at the Cancer Research UK health behaviour unit at University College London.

“Our research found that a cheap, simple text-message reminder could boost the number of women, especially those from deprived areas, attending screening, or cancelling in advance. More trials are needed to confirm this, but texting could save valuable NHS resources.”

Indeed, the study found that text reminders had the biggest impact on women living in deprived areas, with 28 per cent more likely to attend an appointment when sent a text message.

It was recently revealed that the true cost of missed appointments is a staggering £162 million a year – enough for 7,043 nurses’ or 2,347 GPs’ annual salaries, or 405,000 days’ basic hospital care.