Strong but not so silent. Experiences of providing a freephone number with apostal survey of prostate cancer survivors


Session type:

Frances Drummond2, Heather Kinnear1, Audrey Craven-Lynn1, Anna Gavin1, Linda Sharp2
1Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK, 2National Cancer Registry Ireland, Cork, Ireland


Collecting data from cancer patients is necessary to improve cancer prevention and control. However, postal surveys suffer from limitations including low response rates, and lack of knowledge about non-responders. Identifying methods to increase response is important to improve the quality of health research. We report on our experience of using a freephone number with a postal questionnaire for prostate cancer (PCa) survivors.


A postal questionnaire was administered to 6,937 men, April-May 2012. PCa (ICD10 C61) survivors were recruited through cancer registries in Republic of Ireland (RoI) and Northern Ireland (NI). On the cover of the questionnaire, and on the study information sheet, men were advised that if they needed help filling in thequestionnaire, they could ring the freephone number given. This was operated by three of the authors FD (RoI), HK and AC-L (NI). Copious notes were taken during and after each call.


Overall response to the questionnaire was ~58%. Of the men who received the questionnaire, 13% in both RoI (n=632/4831) and NI (274/2,106) used the freephone. The most common reasons for using the number were i) administrative issues including requesting a replacement questionnaire/updating contact details; ii) requesting clarification or assistance in completing the questionnaire; iii) men/family members wanting to explain why they could not or would not complete the questionnaire; and iv) men being unaware of their diagnosis.


Using a freephone has many potential advantages including increased response rates due resolution of confusions and facilitation of questionnaire completion.

Additionally, information on non-responders was collected and an understanding of issues concerning PCa survivors was realised. It was, however, very labour intensive and had cost-implications. Our experiences may be context-specific, however, based on these observations, further investigation into the potential use of freephone numbers with postal questionnaires to cancer survivors is warranted.