• Rationale and Comments

    Many patients residing in the long-term care setting are elderly and frail, with multimorbidity and limited life expectancy. Although research evaluating the impact of screening for breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer in older adults in general and long-term care residents in particular is scant, available studies suggest that multimorbidity and advancing age significantly alter the risk-benefit ratio. Preventive cancer screenings have both immediate and longer term risks (e.g., procedural and psychological risks, false positives, identification of cancer that may be clinically insignificant, treatment-related morbidity and mortality). Benefits of cancer screening occur only after a lag time of 10 years (colorectal or breast cancer) or more (prostate cancer). Patients with a life expectancy shorter than this lag time are less likely to benefit from screening. Discussing the lag time (“When will it help?”) with patients is at least as important as discussing the magnitude of any benefit (“How much will it help?”). Prostate cancer screening by PSA testing is not recommended for asymptomatic patients because of a lack of life-expectancy benefit. One-time screening for colorectal cancer in older adults who have never been screened may be cost-effective; however, it should not be considered after age 85 and for most long-term care patients older than 75 the burdens of screening likely outweigh any benefits.

    Sponsoring Organizations

    • Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine


    • Expert consensus


    • Geriatric Medicine
    • Oncologic
    • Preventive Medicine


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