‘I Want the Whole Package’. Elderly Patients’ Preferences for Follow-Up After Abnormal Cervical Test Results: A Qualitative Study

Pia Kirkegaard*, Line Winther Gustafson, Lone Kjeld Petersen, Berit Andersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Background: The incidence of cervical cancer peaks around the age of 75 years, and elderly patients are more frequently diagnosed with advanced-stage cervical cancer than younger patients. There is considerable practice variation regarding follow-up of elderly patients with abnormal cervical test results at risk of cervical cancer, both nationally and internationally, due to uncertainty about risks and benefits for this particular patient group. The treatment preferences of these patients are, however, poorly described in the current literature. The aim of this study was to explore elderly patients’ experiences with abnormal cervical test results and preferences for follow-up. Materials and Methods: We performed focus group interviews with seventeen Danish patients aged 60–79 years who had undergone biopsy and colposcopy in gynaecological outpatient clinics or at private gynaecologists due to a positive human papillomavirus (HPV) test result and/or abnormal cytology. A focus group interview guide was designed to cover experiences with abnormal cervical test results, including realistic risk and benefit scenarios related to underdiag-nosis and overtreatment. Data were analysed thematically using a phenomenological approach. Results: The patients were surprised that elderly could also have an HPV infection. Most preferred treatment and follow-up at the gynaecologist over continuous control visits at the general practitioner. In case of persistent HPV infection and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, a quick solution including cone biopsy was preferred even if it carried a risk of overtreatment. The patients wanted clear recommendations and demonstrated considerable intolerance towards healthcare professionals’ clinical uncertainty regarding optimum follow-up. Conclusion: Most elderly patients wanted closure involving cone biopsy, and they expressed tolerance towards overtreatment to reduce their risk of cervical cancer. Thus, clinicians should present known risks and benefits to elderly patients facing risk of overtreatment after abnormal cervical test results.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPatient Preference and Adherence
Pages (from-to)1185-1193
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • CIN: treatment
  • Gynaecology: in the elderly
  • Patient preference
  • Qualitative research


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