Study: Older Patients Unaware Of Cancer Screening Changes

A study indicates health organizations need to do a better job getting their messages to patients regarding changes to cancer screening recommendations.

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Photo: Bill Shaw/Indiana Public Media News

Older patients are hesitant to stop receiving regular cancer screenings, despite medical experts saying they’re unnecessary and can even be harmful.

Older patients are hesitant to stop receiving regular cancer screenings, despite medical experts saying they are unnecessary and can even be harmful, according to a study from the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University Center for Aging Research.

National health groups have recently changed recommendations on how often people should get screened for cancer and other medical conditions, but some patients are not aware of those changes, the study, which surveyed Hoosiers between 63 and 90 years old, found.

Head investigator Alexia Torke says even when doctors tell patients a test is not necessary, the patients often disagree and ask for the screening anyway.

“Our approach in the past of encouraging everyone to get screened has its upsides in that it’s encouraged cancer screening for adults that are age appropriate, but it’s had a downside too in that older adults continue to get screened when it may not benefit them,” Torke says.

In fact, Torke says, getting screened could be harmful in some cases and add unnecessary cost.

Indianapolis doctor Patrick Healey works primarily with older patients, and he says he has had to convince many of them they do not need frequent screenings.

“We’re moving away from that and that’s hard for our people because they did they’re annual physical and they walked away feeling ‘I’m in good shape for another year’ and keel over the next day from a heart attack that we missed,” Healey says.

To fix the problem, the study’s authors suggest health groups need to provide more targeted messages to specific groups, such as those who might be at greater risk for cancer.

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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