Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Are older cancer patients undertreated?

A report by Macmillan Cancer Support has highlighted the problems with cancer investigation diagnosis and treatment in the elderly. The report suggests that decisions regarding cancer investigations and treatment are often based upon age and may fail to take into consideration physical fitness, mental attitudes and social support networks. Some 70 year olds may have a very active lifestyle whereas others can be bed bound.

The report calls for treatment decisions to be made on overall health not just on date of birth.

As a population we are living longer. With the number of people diagnosed with cancer set to double to 4 million over the next 20 years and with half of those cancers being diagnosed in the over 70’s, the investigation and treatment of elderly cancer patients needs to be addressed.

Relative five year cancer survival rates for patients over the age of 75 across the UK currently lag behind those of Europe.

A multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis and treatment is required with input from patients, their families as well as surgeons oncologists and geriatricians.

Minimally invasive diagnostic techniques mean more elderly patients can be diagnosed. Furthermore, the advent of minimally invasive surgical techniques and other novel therapies means that many more treatment options are open to the elderly frailer patient.

Simon Radley April 2012

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