Older people with cancer

Older people with cancer

The remission rate in adult AML patients is inversely related to age. Data suggests that once attained, duration of remission may be shorter in older patients (NCI 2020). Older patients are more likely to have drug-resistant disease, frequently have major comorbidities and are less able to tolerate intensive chemotherapy.

Planning and delivering appropriate cancer care for older people can present a number of challenges. This could also be true for frail people or those experiencing comorbidities. Effective communication between oncology and geriatrics departments will help facilitate best practice care, which takes into account physiological age, complex comorbidities, risk of adverse events and drug interactions, as well as the implications of cognitive impairment on suitability of treatment and consent (Steer et al. 2009).

At a national interdisciplinary workshop convened by the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, it was recommended that people over the age of 70 undergo some form of geriatric assessment, in line with international guidelines (COSA 2013; palliAGED 2018). Screening tools can be used to identify those patients in need of a comprehensive geriatric assessment (Decoster et al. 2015). This assessment can be used to help determine life expectancy and treatment tolerance and guide appropriate referral for multidisciplinary intervention that may improve outcomes (Wildiers et al. 2014).

Frailty is not captured through traditional measures of performance status (e.g. ECOG) and includes assessment in the domains of:

  • function
  • comorbidity
  • presence of geriatric syndromes
  • nutrition
  • polypharmacy
  • cognition
  • emotional status
  • social supports.