Elderly adults with suffering from cancer in the past received limited treatment for a variety of reasons. Today, as a means to treating older people with cancer, geriatric oncology programs have sprung up around the country. Seniors can have other medical conditions besides cancer and the cancer can impact these diseases. All treatments have to be managed together and that is what a geriatric oncology team does. At certain hospitals, a medical ethicist may also be on staff to handle the often complex questions older patients may face. These include when treatments is called for and when it may be best to hold off.

Treating Elderly Adults

When it comes to treatment for cancer, older adults:

– May be less tolerant of certain treatments
– Have decreased reserve (i.e. a capacity to respond to disease and treatment)
– Have other medical problems that need to be addressed
– Have functional problems, such as memory loss or a problem with their ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living)
– May lack a support network

Additionally, medical professionals need to take into accountability a person’s susceptibility of falling and breaking a hip, which can compromise cancer treatment. Physical therapy may need to be prescribed to increase strength. Nutrition may pose a problem when it comes to tolerating certain types of treatment. A dietitian or nutritionist may need to create a plan to boost the patient’s health status prior to any intervention.

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