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Cancer when you're older

As an older person, you want a treatment that suits you

Cancer when you're older

You can get cancer at any age. But 2 out of 3 people with cancer are older than 65. Cancer occurs when body cells start sharing incorrectly. As we get older, our body is less and less able to repair these mistakes. That is why cancer occurs more often in the elderly.

What is old?


There is no fixed age attached to the term 'older'. Sometimes it refers to people over 65, sometimes people of 80 years and older. In addition to the calendar age (date of birth), the biological age (the age as you feel) plays an important role. A person of 70 can be fit, active and in the middle of life. Another of this age can suffer from one or more illnesses and have difficulty doing everyday things.

Difference between older and younger people


If you have cancer at an older age, you run into different things than when you are young. Older people:

    are often more vulnerable than younger people. Both physically and mentally. 
    Often have multiple diseases at the same time. In addition to cancer, they have, for example, diabetes, dementia or cardiovascular diseases. This is called co-morbidity. These other diseases and their treatment can affect the treatment of cancer.
    often make a different assessment of the pros and cons of a treatment than young people. Someone who is older and lives with a number of limitations may decide to stop treatment sooner if the result no longer outweighs the side effects.


Treating older people with cancer


It is important that physicians take into account the limitations and needs of older patients when treating cancer. For example, by:

    Involving a geriatric specialist or an oncology geriatric nurse in the treatment team. 
    paying more attention to the wishes and needs of the elderly in the training of care professionals 
    to work on good doctor-patient communication. This is particularly important for the elderly; the healthcare provider is more often the main and most reliable source of information than for younger patients. The elderly also have more difficulty, on average, with processing a lot of information at the same time and with medical terms.

Elderly people do not always receive the right care due to a lack of knowledge and insight about this target group. Fortunately, more and more knowledge is becoming available from research and practical experiences. As a result, treatment and care for older people with cancer are getting better and better.


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