A qualitative study exploring why individuals opt out of lung cancer screening.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Family practice (2017)


BACKGROUND: Lung cancer screening with annual low-dose computed tomography is relatively new for long-term smokers in the USA supported by a US Preventive Services Task Force Grade B recommendation. As screening programs are more widely implemented nationally and providers engage patients about lung cancer screening, it is critical to understand behaviour among high-risk smokers who opt out to improve shared decision-making processes for lung cancer screening.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to explore the reasons for screening-eligible patients' decisions to opt out of screening after receiving a provider recommendation.

METHODS: Semi-structured qualitative telephone interviews were performed with 18 participants who met lung cancer screening criteria for age, smoking and pack-year history in Washington State from November 2015 to January 2016. Two researchers with cancer screening and qualitative methodology expertise conducted data analysis using thematic content analytic procedures from audio-recorded interviews.

RESULTS: Five primary themes emerged for reasons of opting out of lung cancer screening: (i) Knowledge Avoidance; (ii) Perceived Low Value; (iii) False-Positive Worry; (iv) Practical Barriers; and (v) Patient Misunderstanding.

CONCLUSION: The participants in our study provided insight into why some patients make the decision to opt out of low-dose computed tomography screening, which provides knowledge that can inform intervention development to enhance shared decision-making processes between long-term smokers and their providers and decrease decisional conflict about screening.