We will evaluate if we can increase colorectal cancer screening rates by directly sending
screening tests to patients rather than waiting for them to come to clinic visits. We are
also evaluating a new test--fecal immunochemical tests--which does not require patients to
make dietary or medication changes. We will see if patients are more likely to complete
these tests than the standard fecal occult blood tests.
Background: Colorectal cancer causes a substantial burden of suffering in the elderly VA
population. Although colorectal cancer screening can reduce both the incidence and mortality
from colorectal cancer, screening rates are low for the New Mexico VA Health Care System.
Objectives: We propose to use the electronic medical record and a new technology for fecal
stool testing to improve screening rates and adherence to screening.
Methods: The electronic medical record will be used to identify patients who are eligible
for screening but who do not have an immediately upcoming primary care clinic appointment.
We will enroll a randomly-selected sample of 800 of these patients who have agreed to
participate in the study and mail them stool tests along with instructions and educational
information about the benefits of screening. We will compare the proportion of subjects who
undergo colorectal cancer screening during the 3-month study period against a
randomly-selected sample of 400 eligible patients who will require a clinic visit to
initiate screening. Because adherence for fecal occult blood tests is low, we also propose
to evaluate a new screening technology--fecal immunochemical stool tests which target intact
human hemoglobin. These tests can be performed without requiring patients to follow onerous
dietary and medication restrictions. We will evaluate whether screening adherence
(proportion completing testing) is higher with fecal immunochemical testing (n = 400)
compared to the standard fecal occult blood test (n=400). We will also evaluate the yield of
advanced neoplasia for each of the screening tests.
- Eligible for stool-based colorectal cancer screening, followed in primary care clinic
- Need for surveillance or screening colonoscopy
- limited life expectancy