Research reveals older people are not more likely to refuse cancer treatment

Research published by Macmillan Cancer Support reveals that older people are not more likely to turn down cancer treatment than younger patients, but that their survival rates are not as high because of poor assessment and advice

A report published today by Macmillan Cancer Support has found that the over-65s are not as likely to survive cancer as younger people because of poor assessment and advice rather than their refusal to accept treatment.

On behalf of the charity, research consultancy Ipsos MORI surveyed 1,500 people both with and without cancer to compare the attitudes of those aged 65 and over with younger people aged between 55 and 64.

The research has found that the over-65s are less likely than those aged between 55 and 64 to question decisions about which treatment might be best for them.

It also revealed that 90% of people aged 55 and over do not consider cancer an age related disease, therefore meaning they may be unaware that they need to be particularly vigilant about signs and symptoms.

The report follows previous research which had shown older lung cancer patients are five times less likely to have surgery than younger patients, and that survival rates get worse as age increases.

Macmillan Cancer Support head of inclusion Jagtar Dhanda said: 'Older people are simply not getting a fair deal when it comes to cancer care. We know they do not currently have the same access to cancer treatments or the same rates of survival as younger people

'This research reveals for the first time, that we would be wrong to assume that the reason for this is down to older people refusing cancer treatment more than younger patients.

'So the question now is – why are older people not getting the cancer treatment they need? We are worried judgements about older people are being made on the basis of their age rather than their actual capacity to receive treatment. And we hope that this research will help to challenge this.

'Cancer care needs to remain patient-centred and healthcare professionals must be supported to adopt assessment methods which test a patient’s overall physical and mental wellbeing to ensure treatment decisions are not based on age alone.'

Macmillan is calling for the government and NHS to implement and fully fund the recommendations in the recently published report called Achieving world-class cancer outcomes - A Strategy for England 2015-2020.

The full report can be viewed here.

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