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We need to change how we think about cancer in later life.
By 2020, there will be two million people aged 65 and over alive following a diagnosis of cancer. The likelihood of getting most types of cancer increases with age, and half of all cancers are diagnosed in people over 70.
Yet despite this, people over 75 are the only group in which death rates from cancer have increased since the 1970s. Almost a third of cancers in the over-70s are only diagnosed when a patient is admitted to hospital as an emergency.
There are many reasons why cancer is a big issue for older people. These range from the low awareness of the increased risk as we age to ensuring treatment decisions for older people are based on need rather than age. Improving early diagnosis is also very important for maximising chances for long-term survival.
We need to critically assess our cancer services to ensure they are meeting the needs of an ageing population.
Doreen Shotton was Director at Age UK Mid Mersey when she was diagnosed with cancer. In this video, she shares her experiences of being diagnosed and going through treatment.
Doreen's story shows why we need change in the way we care for older people with cancer.
It’s vital that older people and GPs have cancer top-of-mind and are aware of the signs and symptoms. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chance of successful treatment.
It’s important to remember that many older people will respond well to and want life-prolonging cancer treatment. Yet, there is clear evidence that older people are too often under-treated due to clinical judgments made on the basis of ‘chronological age’ rather than their overall health and fitness.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced guidance for the NHS in England and Wales on the diagnosis and treatment of many types of cancer.
The law is clear that age discrimination shouldn’t be happening. We need to make sure that attitudes and practice changes.
The Equality Act 2010 (Age Exceptions) Order 2012 came into force in October 2012 in relation to age discrimination and applies to public services, like the NHS. It means that in these services it is no longer lawful, without good and sufficient reason, to provide inferior services or refuse to provide them solely because of a person's age.
The following organisations provide support for people living with or worried about cancer.
For more information:
Call Age UK on: 0800 169 8787
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