New data suggest that the number of older people diagnosed with cancer per year could reach a quarter of a million in less than 20 years. The figures presented by Cancer Research UK (London, UK) demonstrate that approximately 130,000 people aged 75 and over develop cancer each year in the UK. By 2035 this number is projected to rise to around 234,000 people, largely due to an aging population.
This increase highlights the need for older patients, who are more likely to have other health conditions or need help from social care, to be given better support. The report emphasizes the importance of ensuring the health service is prepared for the rising numbers of elderly patients with more complex needs.
Despite cancer survival doubling over the last 40 years, it is still lower among older people who are more likely to be diagnosed in an emergency and less likely to receive curative treatment. Martin Ledwick (Cancer Research UK) commented: “When elderly people have a lot of health problems and are taking a range of different medications it can affect what treatment they are able to receive.”
He continued: “Some older people with cancer might not be fit enough to have surgery and go through lengthy periods of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but as no two patients are the same, there will be others who are. That’s why it’s so important staff are well trained and resourced so they can assess older people properly and ensure they receive the right treatment, care and support specific to their individual needs.”
Rose Gray (Cancer Research UK) concluded: “If we do nothing the disparity in care between older and younger cancer patients will only grow. It’s vital to address this if we want to realize our ambition of ensuring world-class treatment for everyone in the UK who is affected by cancer.”