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Tracking and tracing of participants in two large cancer screening trials.
Pubmed ID
22561392 (View this publication on the PubMed website)
Contemp Clin Trials. 2012 Jul; Volume 33 (Issue 4): Pages 601-5
Marcus PM, Childs J, Gahagan B, Gren LH
  • National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892-7344, USA.

BACKGROUND: Many clinical trials rely on participant report to first learn about study events. It is therefore important to have current contact information and the ability to locate participants should information become outdated. The Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO) and the Lung Screening Study (LSS) component of the National Lung Screening Trial, two large randomized cancer screening trials, enrolled almost 190,000 participants on whom annual contact was necessary. Ten screening centers participated in both trials. Centers developed methods to track participants and trace them when necessary. We describe the methods used to keep track of participants and trace them when lost, and the extent to which each method was used.

METHODS: Screening center coordinators were asked, using a self-administered paper questionnaire, to rate the extent to which specific tracking and tracing methods were used.

RESULTS: Many methods were used by the screening centers, including telephone calls, mail, and internet searches. The most extensively used methods involved telephoning the participant on his or her home or cell phone, or telephoning a person identified by the participant as someone who would know about the participant's whereabouts. Internet searches were used extensively as well; these included searches on names, reverse-lookup searches (on addresses or telephone numbers) and searches of the Social Security Death Index. Over time, the percentage of participants requiring tracing decreased.

CONCLUSIONS: Telephone communication and internet services were useful in keeping track of PLCO and LSS participants and tracing them when contact information was no longer valid.

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