General practitioners' views and experiences of communicating with older people about cancer screening: a qualitative study

Jenna Smith, Rachael H Dodd, Katharine A Wallis, Vasi Naganathan, Erin Cvejic, Jesse Jansen, Kirsten J McCaffery*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Older adults should be supported to make informed decisions about cancer screening. However, it is unknown how general practitioners (GPs) in Australia communicate about cancer screening with older people.

AIM: To investigate GPs' views and experiences of communicating about cancer screening (breast, cervical, prostate, and bowel) with older people (≥70 years).

DESIGN AND SETTING: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews, Australia.

METHOD: Interviews were conducted with GPs practising in Australia (n = 28), recruited through practice-based research networks, primary health networks, social media, and email invitation. Interviews were audio-recorded and analysed thematically using Framework Analysis.

RESULTS: Findings across GPs were organized into 3 themes: (i) varied motivation to initiate cancer screening discussions; some GPs reported that they only initiated screening within recommended ages (<75 years), others described initiating discussions beyond recommended ages, and some experienced older patient-initiated discussions; (ii) GPs described the role they played in providing screening information, whereby detailed discussions about the benefits/risks of prostate screening were more likely than other nationally funded screening types (breast, cervical, and bowel); however, some GPs had limited knowledge of recommendations and found it challenging to explain why screening recommendations have upper ages; (iii) GPs reported providing tailored advice and discussion based on personal patient preferences, overall health/function, risk of cancer, and previous screening.

CONCLUSIONS: Strategies to support conversations between GPs and older people about the potential benefits and harms of screening in older age and rationale for upper age limits to screening programmes may be helpful. Further research in this area is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalFamily Practice
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Nov 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'General practitioners' views and experiences of communicating with older people about cancer screening: a qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this