A scoping review of ageism towards older adults in cancer care

J Geriatr Oncol. 2023 Jan;14(1):101385. doi: 10.1016/j.jgo.2022.09.014. Epub 2022 Oct 13.


Introduction: Ageism towards older adults with cancer may impact treatment decisions, healthcare interactions, and shape health/psychosocial outcomes. The purpose of this review is twofold: (1) To synthesize the literature on ageism towards older adults with cancer in oncology and (2) To identify interventions that address ageism in the healthcare context applicable to oncology.

Materials and methods: We conducted a scoping review following Arksey and O'Malley and Levac methods and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. We conducted an exhaustive multi-database search, screening 30,926 titles/abstracts. Following data abstraction, we conducted tabular, narrative, and textual synthesis.

Results: We extracted data on 133 papers. Most (n = 44) were expert opinions, reviews, and letters to editors highlighting the negative impacts of ageism, expressing the need for approaches addressing heterogeneity of older adults, and calling for increased clinical trial inclusion for older adults. Qualitative studies (n = 3) described healthcare professionals' perceived influence of age on treatment recommendations, whereas quantitative studies (n = 32) were inconclusive as to whether age-related bias impacted treatment recommendations/outcomes or survival. Intervention studies (n = 54) targeted ageism in pre/post-licensure healthcare professionals and reported participants' improvement in knowledge and/or attitudes towards older adults. No interventions were found that had been implemented in oncology.

Discussion: Concerns relating to ageism in cancer care are consistently described in the literature. Interventions exist to address ageism; however, none have been developed or tested in oncology settings. Addressing ageism in oncology will require integration of geriatric knowledge/interventions to address conscious and unconscious ageist attitudes impacting care and outcomes. Interventions hold promise if tailored for cancer care settings. 249/250.

Keywords: Age-related bias; Ageism; Geriatric oncology; Gerontology; cancer care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ageism* / psychology
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*