Case study finds beating cancer takes team work by doctor, patient, caregiver
Case sociologists study health care trio for older adult patients with cancer
Beating cancer takes team work by the doctors, patients and significant caregivers, like spouses and children. With a $1.1 million, five-year National Cancer Institute grant, sociologists from Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University will focus on elderly cancer patients, studying the relationship and communications amongst the health care trio.
The research project will contribute a new dimension to a longitudinal study on successful aging, now in its 16th year and led by Eva Kahana, Case professor of sociology and director of the Elderly Care Research Center at Case, with co-investigators Boaz Kahana from Cleveland State University (Eva’s husband); Gary Deimling, Case professor of sociology; and Kurt Stange, professor of Family Medicine.
Approximately six percent of adults over the age of 65 are diagnosed with cancer each year, according to Kahana. However, many of these elderly patients do not receive all the recommended screenings - like mammograms for breast cancer or colonoscopies for colon cancer - that doctors routinely recommend for middle-aged patients. These screenings can provide early detection and save lives.
Communications plays a role in “closing the gap between health care providers and consumers,” report the researchers.
They plan to determine if other chronic health problems overshadow cancer screenings or if it might be attributed to other factors in the doctor-patient relationship and communications. The research team is also looking at how communication influences the outcome in cancer prevention and cancer care. What they learn about health care through this disease can be applied to other health care concerns, said Kahana.
The researchers published a proposed communications model in Patient Education and Counseling that provides the study’s framework and could potentially result in ways to improve health care for the elderly, according to Kahana.
The study will look at:
“We visualize older people finding ways to optimize their health by seeking out information from the doctor and non medical sources like the media or the Internet,” said Kahana. “This moves the older adult from a passive health care participant to an active and proactive one.”
As part of the new cancer grant, the researchers will interview and follow several hundred newly diagnosed cancer patients every three months to understand the dynamics in the communications between the doctor, patient and significant caregiver. They also will ask participants in the longitudinal study questions about preventative cancer information from doctors or non medical sources.
“Family members and friends can be powerful influences on the health behaviors of older adults. They can find information, make the patient adhere to doctor’s recommendations and pursue healthier lifestyles,” Kahana said.
Kahana’s research began more than 16 years ago with 1,000 retirees from Cleveland and Clearwater, Fl. Today approximately 150 older Americans between the ages of 88 and 104 continue to participate in the annual interviews that research various factors in their lives that contribute to the researchers’ knowledge about how the elderly age successfully and cope with the increasing numbers of chronic illnesses in the late stages of life.
Recently the researchers received continued funding that will add another 1,300 new older adults, 65 years and older, from Cleveland and the Florida communities of Celebration (an, intergenerational community that uses technology), and Miami with a diverse population of Hispanics, to allow for a comparison between the first generation of older adults with the next generation of aging adults. The continuation of this longitudinal study received $1.8 million from the National Institutes on Aging over the next five years.
Because of the broad and random sample of participants in the longitudinal study, Kahana stated they will have a more accurate overview of health care and information-seeking practices of the elderly.
Information gained from the cancer health care partnership study will contribute to the model the researchers are constructing about successful aging.
About Case Western Reserve University
Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work. http://www.case.edu.