Cancer treatment decision-making among young adults with lung and colorectal cancer: a comparison with adults in middle age

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Our aim is to understand experiences with treatment decision-making among young adults with cancer.


We studied patients with lung cancer or colorectal cancer in the Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance Consortium, a prospective cohort study. We identified 148 young adult patients aged 21–40 years who completed baseline interview questions about cancer treatment decision-making; each was propensity score matched to three middle adult patients aged 41–60 years, for a cohort of 592 patients. Patients were asked about decision-making preferences, family involvement in decision-making, and worries about treatment. An ordinal logistic regression model evaluated factors associated with more treatment worries.


Young and middle-aged adults reported similar decision-making preferences (p = 0.80) and roles relative to physicians (p = 0.36). Although family involvement was similar in the age groups (p = 0.21), young adults were more likely to have dependent children in the home (60% younger versus 28% middle-aged adults, p < 0.001). Young adults reported more worries about time away from family (p = 0.002), and, in unadjusted analyses, more cancer treatment-related worries (mean number of responses of ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ worried 2.5 for younger versus 2.2 for middle-aged adults, p = 0.02.) However, in adjusted analyses, worries were associated with the presence of dependent children in the home (odds ratio [OR] 1.55, 95% CI = 1.07–2.24, p = 0.02), rather than age.


Young adults involve doctors and family members in decisions at rates similar to middle-aged adults but experience more worries about time away from family. Patients with dependent children are especially likely to experience worries. Treatment decision-making strategies should be based on individual preferences and needs rather than age alone. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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