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UC Davis doctors use multimedia to increase colorectal cancer screening among Hispanics

UC Davis physicians have received a $2.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to find out if an interactive multimedia computer program that provides personally tailored education in the user's preferred language increases the number of Hispanic patients who receive colorectal cancer screening. The funding will be used to refine custom-designed software, which was piloted at UC Davis in 2005-06, and evaluate its clinical impact in primary care physician's offices in New York City and Rochester, NY, Tampa, Fla., and Sacramento, Calif.

"Most cancer prevention outreach focuses on providing generic education materials that may not be appropriate for all patients," said Anthony Jerant, associate professor of family and community medicine and principal investigator on the new study. "Our initial outcomes with an English-language version of the program were very promising. With this new funding we can fine tune the software, use it at more sites and truly put it to the test in determining whether or not it can improve screening among both English- and Spanish-speaking Hispanics."

Jerant and UC Davis colleague Peter Franks, professor of family and community medicine, were inspired to develop the computer program after noticing that typical print approaches to encourage cancer screening did not work well with many patients. Their program begins with a self-test to identify key demographics and health status, and then progresses to questions about screening readiness, confidence and perceived barriers all key factors in why a patient may not seek or follow through with cancer screening. After that, the program delivers individualized information designed to increase readiness and confidence and to reduce perceived barriers through a combination of text, narration, video clips and animation in English or Spanish.

Primary care offices were selected as sites for the software program because, according to Jerant, that is where most discussions about cancer are initiated and decisions about screening are solidified.

"One of the major differences in this software program is that it is offered right in the patients' own doctors' offices when they are already thinking about health and have time to talk with their physicians," said Jerant. "This makes it even more likely that they will use the information to ask about screening and discuss recommendations."

Data from the study, to be launched this month, will be collected over the course of four-and-a-half years. Information from Hispanic patients will be compared to information from non-Hispanic white patients to determine if the software helps improve participation in screening overall and, specifically, if it helps reduce or eliminate disparities in screening between these groups. If shown to be effective, the software could eventually be made available to physician offices nationwide.

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third-most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that 108,070 new cases of colon cancer and 40,740 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed in 2008. Screening can reduce those numbers by identifying increased cancer risks and, in the case of colonoscopy, actually removing polyps before they become cancerous. Hispanics are less likely than non-Hispanics to report receiving screening tests for colorectal cancer, making it a critical priority to develop and evaluate interventions that reduce or even eliminate this disparity.


Contact: Karen Finney
University of California - Davis - Health System

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