Too Old to Receive Treatment?

Is our advanced medical system, driven and supported by the technical advancements of science, overly biased toward prolonging life? There are many arguments pro and con on this issue, and all are with merit (and may be completely subjective). However, there is clear evidence that in many instances, an active and rewarding life can be continued due to modern medical procedures.

In the past, the philosophy in dealing with the elderly diagnosed with cancer may have been to let nature take its course. A senior in their 70’s or 80’s, diagnosed with a slow growing tumor, may have been deemed unlikely to receive treatment due to any number of medical justifications. However, many geriatric patients are healthy enough physically and mentally to tolerate and survive the difficulties of radiation and chemotherapy, recovering to thrive in life.

Recent research has shown that many older cancer patients can tolerate more aggressive treatment than they have typically received. Yet, this group of cancer patients has not been studied in proportion to its size so there is still a dearth of information in understanding the functional, physical, mental, pharma-therapeutic and socio-economic factors that affect the course of disease and outcome of treatment decisions.

For example, 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. A home care agency, providing professional care staff,  may be needed to take care of the patient until treatment is completed — particularly for those without any family caregivers living nearby.