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Use of SMS text messaging and videos in bowel cancer screening

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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In Australia, a study (SMARTscreen) aimed to test whether a multi-intervention short message service (SMS) sent by general practices to 50–60-year-old patients who were due to receive the NBCSP (national bowel cancer screening programme) kit would increase NBCSP uptake, by comparing it with usual care (1):

  • for intervention practices, people due to receive the NBCSP kit within a 6-month study period were sent an SMS just before receiving the kit
    • SMS included a personalised message from the person’s general practice endorsing the kit, a motivational narrative video, an instructional video, and a link to more information
    • control practices continued with usual care, comprising at-home testing with a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) through the NBCSP

  • study results showed that:
    • 39.2% (1143/2914) of people in 11 intervention practices and 23.0% (583/2537) of people in 10 control practices had a FIT result in their electronic health records - a difference of 16.5% (95% confidence interval = 2.02 to 30.9)
    • note that it has been estimated that increasing screening participation by 10% could prevent 27 000 incident CRC diagnoses and 16 800 cancer deaths, and that an additional A$200 million expenditure could be saved over the next 20 years in the Australian population

  • study authors concluded:
    • SMS intervention increased NBCSP kit return in 50–60-year-old patients in general practice


  1. McIntosh JG et al. Increasing bowel cancer screening using SMS in general practice: the SMARTscreen cluster randomised trial. British Journal of General Practice 18 March 2024; BJGP.2023.0230. DOI:

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