Study investigates older adults' views on cancer screening

March 11, 2013, Indiana University

A study from the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University Center for Aging Research has found that many older adults are hesitant to halt cancer screenings even when the screenings may no longer be beneficial or may even be potentially harmful. The study is among the first to explore older adults' perceptions of recommendations to halt screenings for breast, prostate, colon and other cancers as they age.

"Older Adults and Forgoing : 'I think it would be strange'" was published Online First by JAMA . "I think it would be strange" was an older adult's reaction when asked about a physician advising against a screening.

The researchers—led by Regenstrief Institute investigator Alexia Torke, M.D., an IU Center for Aging Research scientist and an assistant professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine—report that many older adults feel a strong to continue cancer screenings and that a physician's recommendation to stop screening might threaten trust in the doctor or motivate the patient to seek a .

"In this era of attention to over-testing, there is a growing recognition in the that some older adults are screened for cancer when it is not beneficial or even potentially harmful to that person," Dr. Torke said. "If physicians are going to successfully communicate with their older patients about forgoing screening they, as well as other care providers, need to understand how older adults view these screenings."

In open-ended interviews with older adults with a mean age of 76, the researchers found patients viewed screening as an automatic, recommended or obligatory action. According to Dr. Torke, this confirms the success of in communicating the health benefits of screening. The study findings, she says, highlight the need to develop specific messages for older adults that don't undermine the messages targeted to other groups.

However, seemed to respond well to the idea that screening does not make sense if the burdens—such as pain, time requirements or stress—can be expected to outweigh the benefits. For example, the burdens of colonoscopy were repeatedly cited as reasons not to continue with this test as the patient aged.

Participants were skeptical about hearing government panel recommendations and statistics that show that older adults may not benefit from certain screening tests. Many expressed distrust of the government or felt statistics did not apply to them.

Study participants ranged in age from 63 to 90.

"Each patient is different, but when speaking with or the caregivers of those who can no longer make decisions for themselves about reducing screenings, the discussion needs to clearly outline the balance of risks and benefits for the specific individual. This approach has the greatest chance of building trust and understanding," Dr. Torke said.

Explore further: Despite guidelines, elderly receiving too many cancer screenings

More information: JAMA Intern Med. Published online March 11, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.2903

Related Stories

Despite guidelines, elderly receiving too many cancer screenings

December 13, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Despite guidelines from a major medical group recommending limited – or no – screenings for four types of cancer for people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, a UConn researcher has found that more ...

Study: Willingness to be screened for dementia varies by age but not by sex, race or income

June 19, 2012
The first study to examine the actual willingness of older adults to be screened for dementia has found that acceptance of screening is pervasive, although it varies by age. However, willingness to be screened for dementia ...

Let's talk: The nature of the health care surrogate-clinician relationship

August 8, 2012
A new study from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine examines the relationship between family members who make decisions for hospitalized older adults with impaired cognition and the doctors, ...

Over 50? Checklist may predict if you'll be alive in 10 years

March 5, 2013
(HealthDay)—A simple checklist could help doctors estimate whether an older patient will be alive 10 years from now, according to a new study.

ACP releases new colorectal cancer screening guidance statement

March 5, 2012
The American College of Physicians (ACP) today issued a new guidance statement for colorectal cancer screening. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men and women in the United States. ...

Doctors, women should spend more time discussing mammograms

August 9, 2011
Due to changing guidelines concerning when and how often they should first be screened for breast cancer with mammograms, many women are confused. The American Cancer Society recommends women 40 years and older get a mammogram ...

Recommended for you

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

Researchers develop swallowable test to detect pre-cancerous Barrett's esophagus

January 17, 2018
Investigators at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center have developed a simple, swallowable test for early detection of Barrett's esophagus that offers promise ...

Scientists zoom in to watch DNA code being read

January 17, 2018
Scientists have unveiled incredible images of how the DNA code is read and interpreted—revealing new detail about one of the fundamental processes of life.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.