Patient-Reported Factors Associated With Older Adults’ Cancer Screening Decision-making: A Systematic Review

J. Smith*, R.H. Dodd, K.M. Gainey, V. Naganathan, E. Cvejic, J. Jansen, K.J. McCaffery

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Importance Decisions for older adults (aged >= 65 years) and their clinicians about whether to continue to screen for cancer are not easy. Many older adults who are frail or have limited life expectancy or comorbidities continue to be screened for cancer despite guidelines suggesting they should not; furthermore, many older adults have limited knowledge of the potential harms of continuing to be screened.Objective To summarize the patient-reported factors associated with older adults' decisions regarding screening for breast, prostate, colorectal, and cervical cancer.Evidence Review Studies were identified by searching databases from January 2000 to June 2020 and were independently assessed for inclusion by 2 authors. Data extraction and risk of bias assessment were independently conducted by 2 authors, and then all decisions were cross-checked and discussed where necessary. Data analysis was performed from September to December 2020.Findings The search yielded 2475 records, of which 21 unique studies were included. Nine studies were quantitative, 8 were qualitative, and 4 used mixed method designs. Of the 21 studies, 17 were conducted in the US, and 10 of 21 assessed breast cancer screening decisions only. Factors associated with decision-making were synthesized into 5 categories: demographic, health and clinical, psychological, physician, and social and system. Commonly identified factors associated with the decision to undergo screening included personal or family history of cancer, positive screening attitudes, routine or habit, to gain knowledge, friends, and a physician's recommendation. Factors associated with the decision to forgo screening included being older, negative screening attitudes, and desire not to know about cancer. Some factors had varying associations, including insurance coverage, living in a nursing home, prior screening experience, health problems, limited life expectancy, perceived cancer risk, risks of screening, family, and a physician's recommendation to stop.Conclusions and Relevance Although guidelines suggest incorporating life expectancy and health status to inform older adults' cancer screening decisions, older adults' ingrained beliefs about screening may run counter to these concepts. Communication strategies are needed that support older adults to make informed cancer screening decisions by addressing underlying screening beliefs in context with their perceived and actual risk of developing cancer.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2133406
Number of pages25
JournalJama network open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2021


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