Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

Patients deemed too old for treatment

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Great news: “Tens of thousands of pensioners diagnosed with cancer have survived for at least a decade.” Bad news: “some patients are being deemed as too old for treatment and are not assessed on their overall fitness.”

A recent article in the Guardian points to research from Macmillan Cancer Support and the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) which found that more than 130,000 people in the UK have survived for at least 10 years after being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 65 or above. That number included more than 8,000 patients who were diagnosed at the age of 80 and over. But despite the large number of older people who are “long-term” survivors of the disease, Macmillan said many patients in the UK are being denied treatment because they are deemed to be too old. It said that cancer survival rates in this age group are “poor”.

Macmillan pointed out that survival rates in the UK compared badly with those on the continent and warned of what it saw as a worrying trend in the way people are treated.

For many common cancers – including prostate, breast, lung, stomach, ovarian and kidney cancers – the UK and Ireland have a lower five-year survival rate than the rest of Europe.

Age discrimination is something we’re constantly battling against but generally it’s an inconvenience and we’ve got time to do something about it. Being diagnosed with cancer isn’t always the death sentence we think it is but for some older cancer patients it seems it may be since they’re being denied the possibility of curative treatments.

This has to stop NOW!

Our cancer advocacy project, in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, is working hard to support older people affected by cancer. Our trained advocates are helping ensure that older people can get past any barriers which prevent access to helpful and life-prolonging treatments.

Health professionals must be supported to realise we’re all different regardless of our age. We all have different physical attributes and different attitudes to life and death. Our age doesn’t suddenly make us homogeneous; we continue to be different throughout our lives and we should be treated as the individuals we are.

Marie McWilliams



One thought on “Patients deemed too old for treatment

  1. With an increasingly ageing population we should not be withholding treatment from anyone regardless of their age nor indeed their ability. We have found the cures and treatments for illness and disease and every human being should have the same right to them.


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