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Age discrimination rife in cancer treatment

Published on 20 December 2012 11:30 AM

Calls are being made to end the age discrimination which, charities say, stops some older cancer patients getting the best treatments.

A Macmillan Cancer Support survey found almost half of specialist cancer medics thought ageism among health professionals prevented older patients receiving the best treatment.

Of the 155 GPs, specialist cancer nurses and oncologists polled, 45% said they'd dealt with a patient refused treatment on the grounds of age.

One of Europe's worst cancer survival rates for older people

Macmillan says the UK has one of Europe's worst cancer survival rates for older people and that treatment decisions should be based on a patient's overall physical and mental wellbeing rather than age alone.

The call is backed by Age UK Charity Director General, Michelle Mitchell, said: 'Life expectancy rates of older people with cancer in the UK are currently significantly shorter than those of other European countries and this urgently needs to change.

'This research once again demonstrates that older people can experience discrimination within the NHS and that the chances of receiving high quality care are all too often stacked against older people. Age discrimination has now been outlawed in the NHS and an individual's date of birth should not be used as a proxy for health and fitness or influence treatment decisions.

'With the majority of people who use cancer services being older it is essential that they are designed around them. Therefore we support the recommendations of the report 'Cancer Services Coming of Age', particularly around ensuring practitioners' assessments of older people are based on their needs and not simply on their age.'

Patients should not be written-off as too old for treatment

Macmillan's chief executive, Ciaran Devane, said patients should not be 'written-off as 'too old' for treatment and that more practical support and help was needed so older people could have the treatment they needed. She said the number of older people with cancer in Britain would increase from 1.3 million to 4.1 million by 2032, warning that many could 'die unnecessarily' unless the barriers to timely treatment were removed now.

National Cancer Director Professor Sir Mike Richards admitted there was a 'significant' problem but said it was not done deliberately, adding that very intensive treatments would not be appropriate for some people.

Copyright Press Association 2012

Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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