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#ECC2015 Timebombs in oncology Cancer in Senior Patients

Oncopolicy Forum, Sunday, 27 September 2015, 13:00 – 14:30
– by Professor Riccardo A. Audisio, ESSO President and Session Chair 

The timebomb of cancer in the elderly is real. It is estimated that within 15 years, 12 million people will die of the disease on an annual basis, a majority in the over 65 age-bracket. This group of patients has special needs when it comes to obtaining information and high quality care, and therefore an approach tailored to their specific requirements is crucial.

Information that is readily accessible for younger patients may be less so for the elderly, who are often not as computer- and internet- literate. They may also be less forthcoming, or less able, to ask relevant questions to their doctors in order to be fully knowledgeable about their disease, treatment options and side-effects. Beside this, physicians are also unlikely to fully understand the implications of cancer treatment when administered to senior patients.

Whilst the information gap may result in less optimal outcomes, so too may care that is not adapted to the specific health needs of the elderly population. A true oncogeriatric approach, where physical and social needs are assessed by oncologists who have specialist training, is needed. Multidisciplinary oncogeriatric meetings are carried out in some centres, where the expertise of pharmacists, physiotherapists, social assistants, psychologists, nutritionists and nurses enable defining care tailored to the precise needs of the individual elderly patient.

During the Oncopolicy Forum ‘Timebombs in oncology: Cancer in the elderly’, epidemiological evidence will shed light on the alarming increase in cancer burden amongst the over 65s, and renowned experts will provide their insight into how a multidisciplinary approach may be applied to assess the needs of, and deliver care to this specific population. Which patients should be protected from over-treatment and which should not be denied active treatment despite their age? Why are so few elderly patients enrolled in clinical trials and how can the research gaps in geriatric oncology be addressed?

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