The risk of cancer increases with age, and the number of adults in the U.S. is expected to outnumber children for the first time by 2030. That adds up to a growing need for specialized care to treat cancer in seniors.
The phenomenon has been dubbed the “silver oncologic tsunami” in the medical world, and means providers increasingly will need to understand the special considerations of treating cancer in more senior patients.
Typically, many older patients already have medical conditions, and some may be frail with cognitive challenges. That can make diagnosing and treating cancer in seniors more complicated.
Age also can complicate early detection. Screening often isn’t recommended for people over 75, as there tends to be a paucity of data in this population or the risks of screening may outweigh the benefits, according to the American Cancer Society.
Cancer in older individuals also tend to be in later stages compared with younger patients.
“Treating cancer in older patients requires unique approaches,” said Carmel J. Person, M.D., internal medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates – Geriatrics and geriatrician with Norton Cancer Institute’s Geriatric Oncology Program. “Having cancer and treating it can cause some older patients to slow down. Since that can speed up the aging process, our behavioral oncologists help patients maintain a positive outlook, which keeps them active.”
The Norton Geriatric Oncology Program, geared to patients over 70, teams geriatricians, behavioral oncologists, nurse practitioners, board-certified oncology pharmacists and an array of allied health experts with the leading cancer specialists in the area.
The individualized care plan for each patient includes:
- Help from a nurse navigator to guide the patient through available resources and along the care continuum
- A nutritionist to develop a healthy eating plan
- A social worker to talk about ways to improve quality of life through social services
- Physical therapy consultations and plans
“The multifaceted approach we take lends itself to helping everyone with a custom take on their health care,” Dr. Person said. “We really are leading the way in this region with specialized oncological care for the geriatric patient.”
Norton Cancer Institute’s Geriatric Oncology Program
If you are over age 70 and have any type of cancer, our geriatric oncology specialists will work closely with your current care team to maximize your quality of care.
To schedule an appointment or for more information, call the Geriatric Oncology Program: