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Older Adults Often Face Different Needs When Fighting Cancer

Senior Care | In Home Health Care | Lafayette IndianaCancer can strike anyone at any age, but it is considered a disease of aging. Certain cancers, such as breast, colon, prostate, pancreatic, lung, bladder and stomach, are linked directly to aging.

For lung cancer, for example, the average age of onset is 72; for colon cancer it’s 71; breast cancer is 68. As a means to treating older people with cancer, geriatric oncology programs have sprung up around the country. These programs focus on the unique needs of older patients, and take into consideration their complex medical histories, numerous drugs they are likely to be taking, possible problems with cognitive dysfunction, and general loss of organ function that occurs naturally among older people. In addition, many of these people present with other medical conditions as well, such as heart disease or diabetes, and the cancer may impact these diseases, or conversely.

All treatments have to be managed together, which is what a geriatric oncology team does. At certain hospitals, a medical ethicist may also be on staff to handle the often complex questions older patients may face, such as when treatment is called for and when it may be best to hold off.

These programs also must look at older patients holistically. For example, a patient who is experiencing problems with her hands as a result of treatment may require a different type of support than a cane in order to get around.

Treating Older Adults

When it comes to treatment for cancer, older adults:

  • May be less tolerant of certain treatments
  • Have decreased reserve (i.e. a capacity to respond to disease and treatment)
  • Have other medical problems that need to be addressed
  • Have functional problems, such as memory loss or a problem with their Activities of Daily Living
  • May lack a support network

Additionally, medical professionals need to take into account an older person’s susceptibility to falling and breaking a hip, which can compromise cancer treatment. This may mean the need to prescribe physical therapy to increase strength and reduce risks with a patient who may become weaker as a result of treatment.

Similarly, nutrition may pose a problem when it comes to tolerating certain types of treatment. A dietitian may need to create a nutrition program to boost the patient’s health status prior to any intervention.

Finally, palliative treatment may also play a role. This too becomes part of the balancing act in treating an older person with cancer.



Angels Senior Home Solutions is a based-in-faith company that provides in-home healthcare and personal care services for seniors. We are pleased to provide caregivers that help to restore independence, health and confidence to the elderly.

For more information, please visit our website at


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