Text messages make women more likely to attend breast cancer screenings

Could texting become an integral part of healthcare in the future? Studies seem to be suggesting it should. First we found out that texting from medical staff could cut binge drinkers’ intake by up to 50%. Now new research has found that women who get text messages reminding them about an upcoming breast cancer screening were 20% more likely to attend.

A study funded by the Imperial College Healthcare Charity tested the effectiveness of texting with two groups of women invited to their first screening at London hospitals. Researchers texted the first group of 450 women to remind them of their appointments, but didn’t text another 435. They found that 72% of women who were sent a text message reminder attended their appointment, compared with 60% who weren’t.

The researchers looked at a range of variables and found that the difference was even more striking in women from deprived areas, who were 28% more likely to attend if they were sent a text. In addition, women who couldn’t make their appointments were three times more likely to cancel in advance (as opposed to just not showing up) if they were sent a reminder by text.

The findings were just published in the British Journal of Cancer. Lead author of the study Robert Kerrison says, ‘More trials are needed to confirm this, but texting could save valuable NHS resources.’ It could also potentially save lives. Ian Lush, the chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare Charity, says that for that reason, he hopes it can one day be expanded country-wide.

Diane Shipley