HomeHealthRaise Colon Cancer Screening Rates With a Lottery

Raise Colon Cancer Screening Rates With a Lottery

A study found a 20 percent boost in screenings if patients thought they might win $50

There is a noninvasive, at-home test folks can take to screen for colon cancer, but only about a third of those prescribed the kit actually use it. A new study has found a way to boost those rates: a lottery.

The study focused on the fecal occult blood test, which can detect small amounts of blood in stool that may signal colon cancer and requires patients to collect a small sample of their stool and mail it to a lab. For this study, researchers looked at more than 1,500 patients at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“Fecal occult blood tests are inexpensive and an effective way to find colon cancer early and save lives,” said Jeffrey Kullgren, M.D., a research scientist in the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan, and an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. “It’s up to the patient to do this test at home and unfortunately, completion rates are low.”

Completion rates jumped by 20 percent, however, when patients in the study were offered a one-in-10 chance of winning $50 if they used the test.

“Our study is another example of how modest financial incentives may go a long way in improving health behaviors,” Dr. Kullgren said. “Integrating a small lottery incentive into usual care is a low-cost tool with potential to promote patients’ use of a service proven to saves lives by catching cancer early.”

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cancer killer in the United States, with more than 50,000 deaths each year. It’s deadlier in black folks; we’re twice as likely to succumb to the disease, and studies show black men die up to five years earlier than white men with colon cancer.


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