Charity claims better treatment needed for older cancer patients

A CANCER charity has warned the under-treatment of older patients in Essex is leading to avoidable deaths.

A new report published by the charity claims that over a five-year period nearly 6,000 people in Essex falling into the age bracket could expect to receive a cancer diagnosis and Macmillan is demanding they are treated on the basis of how fit they are rather than solely on their age.

Carol Fenton, regional general manager at the charity, said efforts were being made to promote healthier lifestyles but much more needed to be done to tackle under-treatment of cancer in older people.

She said: “We have a duty to treat people as individuals and give them the best chance of beating cancer, regardless of their age. Many people in their 70s, 80s and beyond can tolerate treatments given to younger people and can be cured of cancer.

“As our population ages, and the number of people diagnosed with cancer grows, it is vital that steps are taken to ensure that people get the right treatment at the correct level of intensity, together with practical support to enable them to take up and complete the treatment.”

Macmillan’s report – called The Age Old Excuse: the under treatment of older cancer patients – says under-treatment is one of a number of factors contributing to around 14,000 avoidable cancer deaths in patients over 75 in the UK each year.

While cancer survival rates are increasing significantly for the under 75s, they are improving at a much slower rate in those aged 74 to 84 and actually getting worse for people aged 85 and over.

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Macmillan is calling for a more effective way of assessing older people for treatment, more short-term practical support to enable them to take up the recommended treatment, and training for professionals working with older people within the NHS to promote age equality.