A recent poll indicates that despite cancer screening guidelines incorporating life expectancy considerations, a significant majority of older adults do not support the use of age cutoffs based on a person’s expected lifespan.
Majority of the Older Adults Disagree with Life Expectancy-Based Cancer Screening Guidelines
According to Health Day, a recent poll conducted by the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging reveals that a majority of older adults, aged 50 to 80, do not agree with using life expectancy as the basis for cancer screening cutoffs. Specifically, 62% of respondents in this age group disagreed with national cancer screening guidelines that suggest stopping cancer screenings based on how long an individual is expected to live.
The study’s author, Brian Zikmund-Fisher, emphasized the importance of personalizing the cancer screening guidelines to an individual’s health situation. This approach acknowledges that sometimes, not undergoing a screening can be the healthiest choice. These cancer screening guidelines that consider life expectancy have emerged due to the increased risks associated with certain screening tests as people age, and research suggests that to fully benefit from early cancer detection, a person typically needs to have a life expectancy of about 10 years.
However, despite acknowledging the potential risks of screening tests increasing with age, 57% of respondents who typically minimize medical interventions also disagreed with using life expectancy as a cancer screening guidelines.
Additionally, around 70% of adults surveyed believed it was acceptable for older adults to receive screenings not recommended by guidelines. While 55% said that 10-year life expectancy limit was about right, but 27% said it was too short.
Controversy Brews Over Life Expectancy-Based Cancer Screening Guidelines: National Poll Unearths Differing Opinions and Potential Insurance Implications
According to USN, cancer screening guidelines are important for both medical decisions and insurance coverage, but there’s uncertainty due to a court case that might end mandatory insurance coverage based on national guidelines. Insurance plans currently follow U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines, but potential court rulings could allow insurers to set their own rules, possibly reducing coverage for some older adults.
New USPSTF guidelines may lower the age for starting mammograms to 40 but still don’t recommend screening for women over 75.
The poll found that 26% of respondents strongly disagreed with using life expectancy in cancer screening recommendations, with more women and Black respondents expressing strong disagreement. “Medical minimizers” were less likely to support using life expectancy in screening guidelines compared to “medical maximizers.