Women who received a text message reminding them about their breast cancer screening appointment were 20% more likely to attend than those who did not receive a reminder, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer (2015; doi:10.1038/ bjc.2015.36).

Researchers, funded by the Imperial College Healthcare Charity in London, United Kingdom, tested text message reminders for women ages 47 to 53 years old who were invited for their first appointment for breast cancer screening.

The team compared approximately 450 women who were sent a text with 435 women who were not texted. It found that 72% of women who were sent a text message reminder attended their screening appointment, compared with 60% who were not.

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Text message reminders had the biggest impact on women from the most deprived areas who were 28% more likely to attend their first screening appointment if they were sent a text.

The research found that women were almost three times more likely to cancel their appointment in advance if they were sent a text message reminder.

“We all forget things now and then, and doctor’s appointments are no exception—in fact, forgetting is one of the most commonly cited reasons why women miss breast cancer screening appointments,” said lead author Robert Kerrison, a PhD student at the Cancer Research UK health behavior unit at University College London.

“Our research found that a cheap, simple text-message reminder could boost the number of women, especially those from deprived areas, attending screening, or cancelling in advance. More trials are needed to confirm this, but texting could save valuable NHS resources.”

“Research like this can help tackle practical barriers that sometimes stop women from attending screening appointments. Cancer screening can save lives, but it’s important to remember there are risks as well as benefits,” said Dr. Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information. “People should also receive good quality information to help them decide whether to take up a screening invitation.”