Experiences of treatment decision-making among older newly diagnosed adults with acute myeloid leukemia: a qualitative descriptive study

Support Care Cancer. 2024 Feb 28;32(3):197. doi: 10.1007/s00520-024-08397-3.


Purpose: Treatment decision-making for older adults with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is complex and preference-sensitive. We sought to understand the patient experience of treatment decision-making to identify specific challenges in shared decision-making to improve clinical care and to inform the development of directed interventions.

Methods: We conducted in-depth interviews with newly diagnosed older (≥ 60 years) adults with AML and their caregivers following a semi-structured interview guide at a public safety net academic hospital. Interviews were digitally recorded, and qualitative thematic analysis was employed to synthesize findings.

Results: Eighteen in-depth interviews were conducted. Age ranged from 62 to 78 years. Patients received intermediate- (50%) or high-intensity (44%) chemotherapy or best supportive care only (6%). Six themes of patient experiences emerged from the analysis: patients (1) felt overwhelmed and in shock at diagnosis, (2) felt powerless to make decisions, (3) felt rushed and unprepared to make a treatment decision, (4) desired to follow oncologist recommendations for treatment, (5) balanced multiple competing factors during treatment decision-making, and (6) desired for ongoing engagement into their care planning. Patients reported many treatment outcomes that were important in treatment decision-making.

Conclusions: Older adults with newly diagnosed AML feel devastated and in shock at their diagnosis which appears to contribute to a feeling of being overwhelmed, unprepared, and rushed into treatment decisions. Because no one factor dominated treatment decision-making for all patients, the use of strategies to elicit individual patient preferences is critical to inform treatment decisions. Interventions are needed to reduce distress and increase a sense of participation in treatment decision-making.

Keywords: Acute myeloid leukemia; Clinical care; Treatment decision-making.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Decision Making, Shared
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Oncologists*
  • Patient Preference