Kah Poh (Melissa) Loh, BMedSci, MBBCh, BAO, Geriatric Hematologist and Oncologist at Strong Memorial Hospital, discusses her recent study on treatment decision-making in older adults with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

AML is a blood cancer that most often occurs in people over the age of 40 years. Signs and symptoms can vary but for many patients, the cancer can be very aggressive and may require intensive treatment. AML patients with comorbidities or who are elderly may not be eligible for intensive therapy in which case effective, more tolerable treatments are needed.

Dr. Loh and colleagues recently published a qualitative study designed to assess the factors that influence older AML patients in what treatment they decide to take. 

As Dr. Loh explains, once a patient has been diagnosed with AML, there is very little time for them to deliberate about their treatment options due to the necessity of immediate treatment. This gives individuals only a few days, or less,  to decide on a course of therapy (e.g., intensive, lower-intensity, or no therapy). Additionally, AML patients are often treated as an inpatient, requiring them to quickly make adjustments in order to spend a month in a hospital. This is particularly difficult for older AML patients, says Dr. Loh. 

According to Dr. Loh’s study, there are over 60 factors that impact decision-making in older adults with AML and their physicians. One interesting finding in the study was that many patients did not recall a lengthy discussion about all treatment options available or feel there was much of a choice. Rather, many recalled going with the option recommended by their oncologist without much consideration. According to Dr. Loh, most cancer patients retain < 20% of the information presented to them during this period of time so it is not surprising that the participants in the above study would perceive a lack of choice.

To learn more about AML and other rare cancers, visit checkrare.com/diseases/cancers/