Effectiveness of Patient Navigation to Increase Cancer Screening in Populations Adversely Affected by Health Disparities: a Meta-analysis

Heidi D. Nelson, Amy Cantor, Jesse Wagner, Rebecca Jungbauer, Rongwei Fu, Karli Kondo, Lucy Stillman, Ana Quiñones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background: This study evaluates the effectiveness of patient navigation to increase screening for colorectal, breast, and cervical cancer in populations adversely affected by health care disparities. Methods: Eligible studies were identified through English-language searches of Ovid® MEDLINE®, PsycINFO®, SocINDEX, and Veterans Affairs Health Services database (January 1, 1996, to July 5, 2019) and manual review of reference lists. Randomized trials and observational studies of relevant populations that evaluated the effectiveness of patient navigation on screening rates for colorectal, breast, or cervical cancer compared with usual or alternative care comparison groups were included. Two investigators independently abstracted study data and assessed study quality and applicability using criteria adapted from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Discrepancies were resolved by consensus with a third reviewer. Results were combined using profile likelihood random effects models. Results: Thirty-seven studies met inclusion criteria (28 colorectal, 11 breast, 4 cervical cancers including 3 trials with multiple cancer types). Screening rates were higher with patient navigation for colorectal cancer overall (risk ratio [RR] 1.64; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.42 to 1.92; I2 = 93.7%; 22 trials) and by type of test (fecal occult blood or immunohistochemistry testing [RR 1.69; 95% CI 1.33 to 2.15; I2 = 80.5%; 6 trials]; colonoscopy/endoscopy [RR 2.08; 95% CI 1.08 to 4.56; I2 = 94.6%; 6 trials]). Screening was also higher with navigation for breast cancer (RR 1.50; 95% CI 1.22 to 1.91; I2 = 98.6%; 10 trials) and cervical cancer (RR 1.11; 95% CI 1.05 to 1.19; based on the largest trial). The high heterogeneity of cervical cancer studies prohibited meta-analysis. Results were similar for colorectal and breast cancer regardless of prior adherence to screening guidelines, follow-up time, and study quality. Conclusions: In populations adversely affected by disparities, colorectal, breast, and cervical cancer screening rates were higher in patients provided navigation services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3026-3035
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • cancer screening
  • health disparity
  • health equity
  • patient navigation
  • prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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