We need to change how we think about cancer in later life. Cancer is primarily a disease of older people – half of all cancers are diagnosed in people over 70.
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.
Why is cancer in later life a big issue?
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 vital for maximising the chances of long-term survival.
We need to critically assess our cancer services to ensure they are meeting the needs of an ageing population.
The earlier a cancer diagnosis, the higher the chance of treatment being successful. Being aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer is vital.
Doreen Shotton was a Trustee at Age UK Mid Mersey when she was diagnosed with cancer. Her story shows why we need to change how we care for older people with cancer.
In partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support we provide practical and emotional support to people aged over 60 with a cancer diagnosis.