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Geriatricians, surgeons, and oncologists must work together to improve care for older cancer patients

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e2314 (Published 26 March 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2314
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. 1London

Older people diagnosed with cancer tend to be undertreated, because recommendations are often made on the basis of age rather than the fitness of the individual patient, according to a new report.

The report, by Macmillan Cancer Support, says individuals have differing levels of frailty, mental attitude, and support, and each will tolerate cancer treatment differently. The report points out that one 78 year old person may be bed bound, whereas another may take part in half marathons.

It calls for assessment methods, such as the comprehensive geriatric assessment, to be used to determine how well a patient might tolerate treatment. It also calls for better identification and management of coexisting health problems, which are common among the elderly.

Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says: “The NHS and social care providers must wake up to the specific issues older people face and ensure treatment decisions are based on their overall health not just their date of birth. Writing people off as too old for treatment …

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