Resistance to discontinuing breast cancer screening in older women: A qualitative study

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By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Screening mammography is associated with reduced breast cancer-specific mortality; however, among older women, evidence suggests that the potential harms of screening may outweigh the benefits. We used a qualitative approach to examine the willingness of older women from different racial/ethnic groups to discontinue breast cancer screening. Women ≥70 years of age who reported having a screening mammogram in the past 3 years and/or reported that they intended to continue screening in the future were recruited for in-depth interviews. Participants who intended to continue screening were asked to describe how the following hypothetical scenarios would impact a decision to discontinue screening: health concerns or limited life expectancy, a physician’s recommendation to discontinue, reluctance to undergo treatment, and recommendations from experts or governmental panels to stop screening. Semi-structured, face-to-face interviews were audio-recorded. Data coding and analysis followed inductive and deductive approaches. Regardless of the scenario, participants (n = 29) expressed a strong intention to continue screening. Based on the hypothetical physician recommendations, intentions to continue screening appeared to remain strong. They did not envision a change in their health status that would lead them to discontinue screening and were skeptical of expert/government recommendations. There were no differences observed according to age, race/ethnicity, or education. Among older women who planned to continue screening, intentions to continue breast cancer screening appear to be highly resilient and resistant to recommendations from physicians or expert/government panels.

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