Caregiver perspectives on cancer screening for persons with dementia: "why put them through it?"

Alexia M. Torke, Peter H. Schwartz, Laura R. Holtz, Kianna Montz, Greg A. Sachs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Objectives To describe the perspectives of family caregivers toward stopping cancer screening tests for their relatives with dementia and identify opportunities to reduce harmful or unnecessary screening. Design Focus group study. Setting Alzheimer's Association support groups for family members of individuals with dementia. Participants Four focus groups including 32 caregivers (25 female; 24 white, 7 African American, one American/Indian; mean age 65.5, range 49-85). Measurements Focus group transcripts were transcribed and analyzed using methods of grounded theory. Results Caregivers considered decisions to stop cancer screening in terms of quality of life and burden on the patient and caregiver. Many described having to intervene in the patient's care to stop unnecessary or harmful screening, and others met resistance when they advocated for stopping. Physicians varied widely in their knowledge of dementia care and willingness to consider cessation of screening. Conclusion Many family caregivers wish to stop cancer screening tests as dementia progresses and are relieved when physicians bring it up. Caregivers are open to discussions of screening cessation that focus on quality of life, burdens, and benefits. Interventions are needed to increase caregiver and clinician discussion of screening cessation and to increase clinician awareness of the need to reconsider cancer screening in individuals with dementia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1309-1314
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2013


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • decision-making
  • dementia
  • early detection of cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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