Cancer registries are used to track new cancer cases and identify any trends across a neighborhood, a county, a state, or the entire country. People listed in the registries and their close relatives are at elevated risk of developing cancer. By using the information recorded in these registries, a research team can identify and contact people at high risk for cancer and inform them about the benefits of cancer screening. Programs that educate people at high risk of cancer could increase screening and, over time, help lower cancer mortality rates.
In collaboration between the Prevention Research Center (PRC), academic departments, local public health practitioners, and cancer surveillance specialists, researchers are using the Michigan cancer registry to identify 3,000 survivors of breast cancer aged 20 to 45 years. Each woman will receive a survey that invites participation in the study and asks about current use of breast cancer screening, family health history, perceptions of what aids and hinders screening, and other information about the respondent, her health, and her health knowledge. A genetic counselor reviews returned surveys, picks relatives from respondents’ family history who seem to be at highest risk of breast cancer and meet study criteria, such as being cancer-free and aged 25 to 64 years. The counselor then invites the respondent to encourage one or two of her selected relatives to complete surveys themselves. Survivor-relative groups will then be randomly assigned as a unit to receive one of two versions of mailed information promoting the Michigan Cancer Consortium Screening Guidelines for Early Detection of Breast Cancer, which emphasizes mammography. The researchers will determine the level of tailoring an intervention needs to be effective; one version matches the attitudes and knowledge of the recipients (as indicated by the survey responses) and another version is untailored. Nine months after receiving the materials, participants will complete a second survey gauging use of screening, aids and obstacles to screening, family support for screening, and other factors.