It was not so long ago that an elderly person suffering from cancer would have received limited treatment and been sent home to die.

“The common thoughts used to be that it wasn’t worth treating cancer in older patients; that they’d lived their lives; they might be dying anyway; they couldn’t tolerate the treatment; the treatment might adversely affect their quality of life; or that they didn’t want to live with the side effects of treatment,” said Gary Shapiro, MD, chairman of the Department of Oncology at Johns Hopkins Bayview and co-founder of its Geriatric Oncology program.

Cancer can truly strike anyone at any age, but it is considered a disease of aging. The average age of those diagnosed with all types of cancer is 70. Certain cancers, such as breast, colon, prostate, pancreatic, lung, bladder and stomach cancer, are linked to aging. For lung cancer, for example, the average age of onset is 72; for colon cancer it’s 71; breast cancer is 68.  Relatively little is known about how cancers develop and progress in older patients or how best to treat them.

Lacking a support network of family or outside friends, many elders utilize homecare services such as those provided by my agency, Home Care Partners, LLC.