Cancer in elderly people is expected to dramatically rise to 80% in less than 20 years, new figures from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) reveal.
Around 130,00 people aged 75 and over in the UK develop cancer every year; by 2035, cases of cancer in elderly people are projected to rise to around 234,000, largely due to an ageing population.
Over the last 40 years, cancer survival has doubled; however, it is still lower among older people, who are more likely to be diagnosed in an emergency and less likely to receive curative treatment.
Better support for elderly patients
This research has raised the urgent need for older patients who are more likely to have multiple health conditions or need help from social care to be given better support.
In CRUK’s report ‘Advancing Care, Advancing Years: Improving cancer treatment and care for an ageing population’, it calls on the health service to act now and make sure they are prepared for the rising numbers of older patients with more complex needs.
- Ensuring staff have enough time to spend caring for patients;
- Better assessments to help make the right decisions about the best treatments; and
- Better evidence of how medication affects older patients.
What needs to be done to combat cancer in elderly people?
Rose Gray, Cancer Research UK’s policy manager, said: “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 realise our ambition of ensuring world-class treatment for everyone in the UK who is affected by cancer.
“It’s also highly likely that this group will be the hardest hit by wider pressures facing the NHS, including severe workforce shortages. While the additional investment announced this week is welcome, it falls short of what is likely to be needed to truly transform the way that patients are cared for.
“For 70 years, the NHS has been at the forefront of fighting cancer. But we need more investment in staff to give the best possible treatment and care for older cancer patients, both now and in the future.”
What are the problems older people face?
Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head information nurse, concluded: “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.
“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.”