Open Access Open Badges Study protocol

A pilot telephone intervention to increase uptake of breast cancer screening in socially deprived areas in Scotland (TELBRECS): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

Julie A Chambers1*, Ronan E O’Carroll1, Alan Cook2, Julie Cavanagh3, Debbie Archibald4 and Rosemary Millar2

Author Affiliations

1 Psychology, School of Natural Sciences, Stirling University, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK

2 Department of Radiology, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee DD1 9SY, UK

3 Directorate of Public Health, Tayside NHS Board, Kings Cross, Clepington Rd, Dundee DD3 8EA, UK

4 East of Scotland Breast Screening Service, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee DD1 9SY, UK

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:824  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-824

Published: 9 August 2014



Breast cancer accounts for almost 30% of all cancers and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women in Scotland. Screening is key to early detection. The Scottish Breast Screening Programme is a nationwide, free at point of delivery screening service, to which all women aged between 50 and 70 years are invited to attend every 3 years. Currently over three-quarters of invited women regularly attend screening. However, women from more deprived areas are much less likely to attend: for example in the 3 years from 2010–2012 only 63% of women in the most deprived area attended the East of Scotland Breast Screening programme versus 81% in the least deprived. Research has suggested that reminders (telephone or letter) and brief, personalised interventions addressing barriers to attendance may be helpful in increasing uptake in low-income women.


We will employ a brief telephone reminder and support intervention, whose purpose is to elicit and address any mistaken beliefs women have about breast screening, with the aim that the perceived benefits of screening come to outweigh any perceived barriers for individuals. We will test whether this intervention, plus a simple anticipated regret manipulation, will lead to an increase in the uptake of breast cancer screening amongst low-income women who have failed to attend a first appointment, in a randomised controlled trial with 600 women. Participants will be randomly allocated to one of four treatment arms i.e. 1) Letter reminder (i.e. Treatment as usual: CONTROL); 2) Telephone reminder (TEL), 3) Telephone reminder plus telephone support (TEL-SUPP) and 4) Telephone reminder plus support plus AR (TEL-SUPP-AR). The primary outcome will be attendance at breast screening within 3 months of the reminder letter.


If this simple telephone support intervention (with or without AR intervention) leads to a significant increase in breast screening attendance, this would represent a rare example of a theoretically-driven, relatively simple psychological intervention that could result in earlier detection of breast cancer amongst an under-served group of lower socio-economic women.

Trial registration

Current Controlled trials: ISRCTN06039270. Registered 16th January 2014.

Breast cancer; Screening; Anticipated regret; Telephone reminder; Barriers to breast screening