Background: Understanding which attributes of colorectal cancer (CRC) screening tests drive older adults' test preferences and choices may help improve decision making surrounding CRC screening in older adults.
Materials and methods: To explore older adults' preferences for CRC-screening test attributes and screening tests, we conducted a survey with a discrete choice experiment (DCE), a directly selected preferred attribute question, and an unlabeled screening test-choice question in 116 cognitively intact adults aged 70-90 years, without a history of CRC or inflammatory bowel disease. Each participant answered ten discrete choice questions presenting two hypothetical tests comprised of four attributes: testing procedure, mortality reduction, test frequency, and complications. DCE responses were used to estimate each participant's most important attribute and to simulate their preferred test among three existing CRC-screening tests. For each individual, we compared the DCE-derived attributes to directly selected attributes, and the DCE-derived preferred test to a directly selected unlabeled test.
Results: Older adults do not overwhelmingly value any one CRC-screening test attribute or prefer one type of CRC-screening test over other tests. However, small absolute DCE-derived preferences for the testing procedure attribute and for sigmoidoscopy-equivalent screening tests were revealed. Neither general health, functional, nor cognitive health status were associated with either an individual's most important attribute or most preferred test choice. The DCE-derived most important attribute was associated with each participant's directly selected unlabeled test choice.
Conclusion: Older adults' preferences for CRC-screening tests are not easily predicted. Medical providers should actively explore older adults' preferences for CRC screening, so that they can order a screening test that is concordant with their patients' values. Effective interventions are needed to support complex decision making surrounding CRC screening in older adults.
Keywords: colorectal cancer screening; conjoint analysis; discrete choice experiment; patient preferences; test attributes; values clarification.