The influence of life stage on supportive care and information needs in cancer patients: does older age matter?
INTRODUCTION Age is the major risk factor for the majority of patients with cancer. More than 50% of cancers occurs after the age of 60. Cancer in the elderly is therefore a public health issue at stake. However, in daily clinical practice the elderly presenting cancer are not listened to with great interest and treatment is often not proper or suboptimal. CURRENT KNOWLEDGE AND KEY POINTS Diagnosis in the elderly is established at a more advanced stage of cancer than in younger people; diagnostic workup is reduced and suboptimal treatments are implemented. Therefore, barriers exist that prevent the elderly from accessing the healthcare system as easily as their younger counterpart. Misconceptions about cancer also lead them to delay their first visit. As well, although treatment with curative intent and without major side-effect is feasible, physicians have misconceptions regarding therapeutic possibilities. Due to the heterogeneity of the so-called "ageing population", difficulties are related to patients' selection. FUTURE PROSPECTS AND PROJECTS Decision in oncology for the elderly must walk a fine line in attempting to deliver the best treatment under the best conditions. Age per se must not be the only criterion for medical decision. Providing accurate information adapted to the elderly, with large circulation among healthcare professionals, should lead to the same quality of care as that in young people. Comprehensive multimodal geriatric assessments should help to further differentiate patients who may benefit from curative treatment from those for whom only palliative treatment is necessary.