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Celebrate 10 Years with Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T.

Increasing Cancer Screening: Provider Reminder and Recall Systems

Reminders inform health care providers it is time for a client’s cancer screening test (called a “reminder”) or that the client is overdue for screening (called a “recall”). The reminders can be provided in different ways, such as in client charts or by e-mail.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends provider reminder systems based on strong evidence of their effectiveness in increasing:

  • Breast cancer screening by mammography
  • Cervical cancer screening by Pap test
  • Colorectal cancer screening by fecal occult blood test (FOBT)

The Task Force recommends provider reminder systems based on sufficient evidence of their effectiveness in increasing:

  • Colorectal cancer screening by flexible sigmoidoscopy

The Task Force finds insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of using provider reminders to increase:

  • Colorectal cancer screening by colonoscopy or double contrast barium enema

Task Force Finding

Results from the System Reviews

Twenty-five studies qualified for the review and included 2 outcome measures.

  • The included studies had thirty-one estimates of the effect of provider reminders on the screening outcomes of interest: twelve for mammography, thirteen for Pap tests, five for FOBTs, and one for flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Mammography, pap test, and FOBT screening completion: median increase of 8.8 percentage points

Breast Cancer

Cervical Cancer

  • Proportion of study participants completing Pap tests: median increase of 4.7 percentage points (13 studies or study arms)

Colorectal Cancer

  • Proportion of study participants completing FOBTs and flexible sigmoidoscopy: median increase of 17.6 percentage points (6 studies or study arms)

These results were based on a systematic review of all available studies, conducted on behalf of the Task Force by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice and policy related to cancer prevention.

Supporting Materials


Baron RC, Melillo S, Rimer BK, et al. Intervention to increase recommendation and delivery of screening for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers by healthcare providers: a systematic review of provider reminders. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 452 kB] Am J Prev Med 2010;38(1):110-7.

Read other Community Guide publications about Cancer Prevention and Control in our library.

Promotional Materials

Community Guide News

More promotional materials for Community Guide reviews about Provider-Oriented Interventions to Increase Cancer Screening.

*PDF includes all of the information available and will not be updated.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Increasing cancer screening: provider reminder and recall systems. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: February 2006