A study looking at breast cancer screening in Scotland (TELBRECS)

Cancer type:

Breast cancer





This study looked at why some women don’t take up the invitation to attend breast screening in Scotland.

More about this trial

Breast cancer screening can help find early signs of breast cancer. But not all women who are invited to breast cancer screening attend their appointment.

We know that women from poorer areas are less likely to attend screening. The researchers wanted to find out why some of these women do not to take up the invitation to have breast screening.

The aims of this pilot study were to find out:

  • more about how women feel about going to breast screening
  • if a telephone reminder could increase the number of women attending

Summary of results

The study team found that a brief telephone reminder doubled attendance at breast screening in this group of women compared with a letter reminder.

856 women took part in the study. They were put into 1 of 4 groups.

  • 217 had the usual letter reminder (the control group)
  • 212 had a letter reminder and a brief telephone reminder (the 1st telephone reminder group)
  • 213 had a letter reminder, a telephone reminder and a brief conversation with a researcher (the 2nd telephone reminder group)
  • 214 had a letter reminder, a telephone reminder and a brief conversation with a researcher – they were also asked if they might regret not being screened (the 3rd telephone reminder group)

The study team looked at the number of women who made a screening appointment after they were contacted. This was:

  • 19 in the control group
  • 43 in the 1st telephone reminder group
  • 30 in the 2nd telephone reminder group
  • 36 in the 3rd telephone reminder group

Women in the 2nd and 3rd telephone reminder groups were told that the study team were trying to understand why some women do not take up their invitation to attend for breast screening when invited, and asked whether they would be prepared to answer some questions.

247 agreed to answer the researchers’ questions. The researchers asked the women:

  • how they felt about screening
  • why they didn’t attend
  • what might help them attend
  • in the 3rd telephone reminder group if they would have any regrets about not attending their screening appointment

The main findings of the study were that:

  • more women in the telephone reminder groups made and attended an appointment compared with the control group
  • overall, there was no difference in the numbers of women who made or actually went for their appointment between the 3 telephone groups.

The study team concluded that a brief telephone call, whether or not it included talking about attendance or possible regret was useful. But contacting the women was sometimes tricky as people did not always answer their phones or numbers were wrong. Women who said they would have regrets if they didn’t attend were more likely to make and attend an appointment.

The study team recommend that the breast screening service introduce telephone reminders to improve the numbers of women attending breast screening.

We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team who did the research. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Ronan O’Carroll

Supported by

NHS Tayside
University of Stirling

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Deborah wanted to help other breast cancer patients in the future

A picture of Deborah

“Deborah agreed to take part in a trial as she was keen to help other cancer patients in the future. "If taking part in a trial means others might be helped then I’m very happy with that."

Last reviewed:

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