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Helpline Calling Patterns in a Colorectal Cancer Screening Program: A Cross-Sectional Study

Background: In population-based cancer screening programs, individuals need to be able to contact the relevant health authorities with their questions or concerns. Calling patterns for the telephone helplines that support these services may reveal gaps in provision, or obstacles to the success of a screening program. The aim of this study was to analyze the calling patterns for a helpline supporting the Danish colorectal cancer-screening program. We compared the age and sex of individuals making use of the helpline versus a background population, and explored their motives for calling, with a particular focus on those seeking information about the screening invitations.

Method: This was a cross-sectional study. Questionnaire data were collected for 43 consecutive workdays by telephone helpline staff. Data for the background population were taken from all citizens invited for screening (retrieved from an in-house database), with age and sex subsequently compared with the helpline population using Pearson's chi-squared test. Multiple logistic regression analyses with adjusted odds ratios were used to identify associations between sex, age, and motives for calling.

Results: A total 1,666 telephone calls to the helpline were registered by helpline staff, of which 1,630 were included in our analyses. The background population comprised all 22,692 citizens who had received a screening invitation. Significantly fewer men than women used the service (43.3%; 95% CI: 40.9-45.8), compared to the background population (50.0%; 95% CI: 49.4-50.8). The majority of calls concerned unsubscribing from the screening program (25.3%), calls about the screening kit (22.7%), and counseling (22.2%). Significantly fewer calls about unsubscribing came from men versus women (37.1%; 95% CI: 0.5-0.8, OR=0.7). There were no statistically significant differences between calls from men and women regarding the screening kit (47.8%; 95% CI: 1.0-1.6, OR=1.3), or counseling (41.3%; 95% CI: 0.9, 0.7-1.2).

Conclusion: The results may guide future initiatives to establish helpline services about population-based screening programs in other countries.


Pia Kirkegaard

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