'Wrong to assume' older patients more likely to refuse cancer treatment - Macmillan

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Older cancer patients are no less likely to refuse treatment than younger patients, but are less likely to receive treatment, research from Macmillan has found.

Among over 75s, 12% of those surveyed said they opted not to have certain treatments, compared to 15% of those aged 55-64 and 14% of those aged 65-74.

Of those aged 65 or over 68% agreed healthcare staff know what's best for them on making decisions about cancer care compared to 58% of those aged 55-64.

However, patients aged 65 and over are currently less likely to have treatments and their survival rates from cancer are lower than those aged 55-64.

Macmillan's research was conducted by Ipsos MORI who surveyed online 1,004 people aged 55 and over with cancer.

Previous research by Macmillan found that otherwise healthy lung cancer patients whose cancer had not spread were five times less likely to have surgery than younger patients.

Jagtar Dhanda, head of inclusion at Macmillan Cancer Support 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?

Dhanda added: "We are worried judgements about older people are being made on the basis of their age rather than their actual capacity or preference to receive treatment.

"And we hope that this research will help to challenge this.

"We know the NHS is serious about addressing the gaps in survival between older and younger patients through the commitments made in the recently published ‘Cancer Strategy for England'.

"This research will support them to bridge this gap.

"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."

Further reading:

Rise in deaths from less common cancers

Amount of common cancers in under 45s found

UK cancer survival rates at 90s levels - Macmillan

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