Cancer and aging: What you need to know

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Cancer can affect anyone, but it’s more common in older people. In fact, half of all new cancer cases are in people over 66. So, a lot of older people are fighting cancer, and they often need special care.

That’s because they may have other health problems, be on different medications, or have different physical abilities.

Unfortunately, a recent survey found that many doctors who treat cancer don’t use a special method to understand the needs of their older patients.

This method, called a Geriatric Assessment (GA), checks the physical and mental abilities, overall health, medication use, diet, and living situation of an older person.

Despite the benefits of a GA, only 13% of doctors in local clinics use it for all their older patients. Surprisingly, 60% of doctors don’t use it at all.

A Solution: The Geriatric Assessment

City of Hope, a major cancer research and treatment organization in the US, wants to change this. They’re part of a group of experts that recently updated guidelines on how to treat older cancer patients.

The group says doctors should do a GA before they give an older patient any kind of cancer treatment, like chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy.

Doing a GA can change how doctors treat an older patient. For example, it might show that a patient could benefit from a lower dose of a drug, or from a different kind of support, like physical therapy or help from a social worker.

Changing the treatment in these ways can reduce side effects, improve the patient’s quality of life, and even lower the cost of healthcare. Most importantly, it doesn’t decrease the patient’s chances of surviving cancer.

The Benefits: Better Treatment and Quality of Life

The results of using a GA are clear. Older patients who get a GA-guided treatment are more likely to finish their treatment and keep their independence.

They’re also happier with their cancer care. Plus, it reduces the chances of patients being over-treated or under-treated.

But there’s a problem: many doctors find the GA too much to handle. They may not know it exists, how to use it, or think they don’t have the resources to do it. Also, some doctors say that the GA takes too much time to complete.

Making It Easier: The Practical Geriatric Assessment

To solve this problem, the team at City of Hope developed a new tool called the Practical Geriatric Assessment. It’s a shorter, simpler version of the GA that’s easy to use.

It mostly asks patients questions that they can answer on their own. But it also checks their mental and physical abilities. This part needs to be done by trained staff in the clinic.

From the Experts: Importance of a Geriatric Assessment

The experts behind these new guidelines believe they will make a big difference. Dr. William Dale, a leading doctor at City of Hope, says a GA is a kind of precision medicine.

It helps doctors give the right dose of medicine, offer more supportive care, and cause fewer side effects. In the end, patients have a better quality of life and the same great results in their fight against cancer.

Dr. Tanyanika Phillips, another doctor at City of Hope, agrees. She believes that if you don’t do a GA, the patient pays for it later.

They might face severe side effects or even hospitalization, leading to more expensive care and worse results.

In the end, using a GA or the new Practical Geriatric Assessment can help doctors give older cancer patients the best treatment for their unique needs. It’s a small step that can make a big difference in the lives of many people.

If you care about cancer, please read studies about a new method to treat cancer effectively, and this low-dose, four-drug combo may block cancer spread.

For more information about cancer prevention, please see recent studies about nutrients in fish that can be a poison for cancer, and results showing this daily vitamin is critical to cancer prevention.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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