Collections > UNC Scholarly Publications > BioMed Central > Older adults' attitudes about continuing cancer screening later in life: a pilot study interviewing residents of two continuing care communities

Abstract Background Individualized decision making has been recommended for cancer screening decisions in older adults. Because older adults' preferences are central to individualized decisions, we assessed older adults' perspectives about continuing cancer screening later in life. Methods Face to face interviews with 116 residents age 70 or over from two long-term care retirement communities. Interview content included questions about whether participants had discussed cancer screening with their physicians since turning age 70, their attitudes about information important for individualized decisions, and their attitudes about continuing cancer screening later in life. Results Forty-nine percent of participants reported that they had an opportunity to discuss cancer screening with their physician since turning age 70; 89% would have preferred to have had these discussions. Sixty-two percent believed their own life expectancy was not important for decision making, and 48% preferred not to discuss life expectancy. Attitudes about continuing cancer screening were favorable. Most participants reported that they would continue screening throughout their lives and 43% would consider getting screened even if their doctors recommended against it. Only 13% thought that they would not live long enough to benefit from cancer screening tests. Factors important to consider stopping include: age, deteriorating or poor health, concerns about the effectiveness of the tests, and doctors recommendations. Conclusion This select group of older adults held positive attitudes about continuing cancer screening later in life, and many may have had unrealistic expectations. Individualized decision making could help clarify how life expectancy affects the potential survival benefits of cancer screening. Future research is needed to determine whether educating older adults about the importance of longevity in screening decisions would be acceptable, affect older adults' attitudes about screening, or change their screening behavior.