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Study shows colorectal cancer screenings by mail increase screening rates

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 5% of women and men in the United States will develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime.1 In 2018 alone, it is estimated that there will be over 140,000 newly diagnosed cases of colorectal cancer.1

In order to help individuals catch colorectal cancer in its early stages, when it is most treatable, the American Cancer Society encourages individuals aged 45 and older to have regular screenings for colorectal cancer. There are a variety of ways to screen for colorectal cancer, but one of the least invasive and most cost-effective methods is a highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT). These colon cancer screening tests are also available by mail, making it easier than ever for patients to complete their screenings.

What is a FIT test?

A FIT test (fecal immunochemical test) is a non-invasive way for individuals to screen for colorectal cancer without any meal or drug preparation.2 It is a stool-based test that individuals can complete in the comfort of their own home thanks to the availability of mail order colon cancer tests (FITs).

How do individuals receive their FIT results?

After the individual completes the collection (instructions are included in the collection kit), they simply ship the specimen back to the lab in the prepaid, pre-addressed package included with the materials. At the lab, the specimen is processed to detect hidden blood in the stool.2

 The confidential results of the colon test by mail will be available online within 1 week after the individual returns the completed collection. They will also receive results in the mail within 3 weeks of returning the kit. If the FIT result is positive, a colonoscopy may be needed to investigate the cause of the bleeding.

Who should take a colon test by mail? How often?

If individuals are using the FIT colon cancer test by mail to screen for colorectal cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that everyone aged 45-75 complete one each year.2 While colon testing by mail is a convenient, effective method for many individuals, doctors may recommend more frequent colonoscopies for those with increased risk of colon cancer. If an individual has a personal history of colon cancer, a parent or sibling who has had colon cancer, or a history of inflammatory bowel disease, they should talk to a doctor about colon cancer risk.3

Implementing FIT tests as part of a population health initiative

Currently, only 63% of those who should be screened for colorectal cancer are up-to-date with their screenings, and that rate is even lower for low-income populations.4 Mail order FIT tests, like InSure® ONE™, are often used by employers and health plans to help individuals stay on top of their colorectal cancer screenings, thus reducing the number of preventable deaths from colorectal cancer. These yearly programs can be implemented in 2 ways: either the program can require individuals to order a kit to receive one (“by request” programs), or a colon test kit can be mailed directly to each participant’s home (“direct mail” programs).

Study shows that colon tests by mail increase screenings

Recently, the University of North Carolina (UNC) Comprehensive Cancer Center, in collaboration with the Mecklenburg County Health Department, released the results of a study they conducted on the effectiveness of these two types of programs. For the study, over 2,100 individuals who were not up-to-date on colorectal cancer screening were contacted.4 Some individuals received a FIT kit in the mail, while others only received a reminder postcard with instructions on how to arrange a screening.

Of those who received a FIT kit in the mail, 21% completed the screening. However, only 12% of the individuals who just received the reminder postcard, completed the screening.4 Based on these findings, the UNC Comprehensive Cancer Center study shows that removing barriers to participation is essential, especially in regards to colorectal cancer screenings. By mailing colon cancer screening kits directly to participants’ doors, without the need to place orders, more individuals are likely to complete their yearly screening and be engaged with their health. And for employers and health plans, having more members of their population being engaged in their health leads to lower medical costs and more lives saved.

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1. “Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer.” American Cancer Society. Updated 21 February 2018. Accessed 26 July 2018.

2. “Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests.” American Cancer Society. Updated 27 January 2018. Accessed 30 July 2018.

3. “Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors.” American Cancer Society. Updated June 29, 2020. Accessed 16 March 2021.

4. “By sending tests in the mail, researchers boost colorectal cancer screening.” University of North Carolina Health Care and University of North Carolina School of Medicine. 13 July 2018. Accessed 26 July 2018.

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