REPORTING. Behind the scenes of the prevention campaign for colorectal cancer screening

One in two French people are not screened for this type of cancer, which causes 7,000 deaths per year in France.


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Advisors from the Evreux health insurance fund (Eure), March 2024 (ANNE-LAURE DAGNET / FRANCEINFO / RADIO FRANCE)

Letters, invitations via Ameli, SMS or even phone calls: you may have been contacted by Social Security during the month of March, as part of a vast prevention campaign against colorectal cancer organized by the Health Insurance and the National Cancer Institute. Around a hundred advisors were specially recruited and trained to convince vulnerable people to get tested, among French people aged 50 to 74. And for good reason: in France, two thirds of patients affected by this type of cancer are not screened.

“I’m calling you as part of prevention for colorectal cancer screening, would you like to give me five minutes?” In the offices of the Evreux health insurance fund, around twenty advisors are making phone calls, headphones screwed over their ears. In their listings, only policyholders who do not have a treating doctor, little income, and who rarely participate in screenings.

“I finally made an appointment yesterday”

“So, I’ll tell you straight away: we don’t have a computer, nor the internet, all these things… So we had given up a bit,” explains the man on the other end of the line. Until he received an SMS to alert him of the call from the CPAM, which was the trigger. “I reread the thing, I saw that the doctor could give us a kit, and I finally made an appointment yesterday to get some for my wife and me.”

“But are the colorectal cancer test and the colonoscopy two different things?” asks another insured. Sometimes the counselor must explain the process in detail. “Yes, they are two different things”, she replies before explaining in more detail.

To prevent advisors from running into people they know, each of the seven platforms dedicated to this screening for vulnerable people makes calls to another department. The problem is reaching the people they need to call: “Hello, you are on the voicemail of…” Many of these calls land on voicemail boxes.

“We have about 60% of calls made that are unsuccessful.”

Milene Bastien


“Of the 40% of successful calls, during which we can unfold our script and promote these screening actions and convince policyholders, we still have a good half of them who respond favorably to us”, tempers the head of the CPAM de l’Eure plateau, Milène Bastien. The advisors tell them the procedure to follow for colorectal cancer screening: simply obtain a kit from your doctor, your pharmacist, or even online, and collect your stool at home before sending the sample back by mail. the post office.

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