Decisions about medication use and cancer screening across age groups in the United States.

Document Type


Publication Date



CORE, Geriatrics

Journal Title

Patient education and counseling

MeSH Headings

Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Decision Making, Early Detection of Cancer, Female, Health Care Surveys, Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice, Humans, Male, Mass Screening, Medication Adherence, Middle Aged, Neoplasms, Physician-Patient Relations, Prescription Drugs, Surveys and Questionnaires


OBJECTIVE: To describe decision process and quality for common cancer screening and medication decisions by age group.

METHODS: We included 2941 respondents to a national Internet survey who made at least one decision about colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer screening, blood pressure or cholesterol medications. Respondents were queried about decision processes.

RESULTS: Across the five decisions considered, decision process scores were similar (and generally low) across age groups for medication and cancer screening, indicating that all groups had poor involvement in medical decision making. Overall knowledge scores were low across age groups, with elderly (75+) having slightly higher knowledge about medications vs. younger respondents. Elderly respondents reported similar goals and concerns when making decisions, though placed greater importance of having peace of mind from a normal result for cancer screening vs. younger respondents.

CONCLUSION: Across age groups, respondents reported poor decision processes about common medications and cancer screening, despite little evidence of benefit for some interventions (cancer screening, cholesterol lowering medicines in low risk elderly) and possibility of harm in the elderly.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Particular care should be taken to help patients understand both benefit and risk of screening tests and routine medications.



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