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Cancer services need to come of age, says age equality report

Emma_S_BCC
Monday, 24 December, 2012 - 12:58

Older cancer patients are still not getting the standards of care they need and deserve, research suggests.

Nearly half of the 155 healthcare professionals responding to a Macmillan Cancer Support/ICM online survey say stereotypes and assumptions about older people mean some are not getting the best treatment for their cancer and individual needs.

A Macmillan Cancer Support report published in December, Cancer Services Coming of Age, presents the findings of five pilot projects set up in England with Age UK and the Department of Health. These explored ways of improving the quality of cancer care for older people.

The report’s recommendations echo our own 2011 policy report (supported by Age UK), Improving outcomes and experiences for older women with breast cancer. This looked at the importance of improving early diagnosis, treatment assessment, and information and support for older patients.

The Macmillan report recommends that healthcare providers use assessment methods to test which cancer treatments older patients will be able to tolerate. Also that cancer services should make strong links with both voluntary sector and social care services to provide practical support.

Ciaràn Devane, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:

'Unless staff are given the time and training to carry out a proper assessment of a patient’s overall physical and mental wellbeing, some patients will be unfairly written-off as “too old” for treatment.

'The right practical support, whether it’s transport or help with caring responsibilities, must also be put in place so older people needing treatment can actually take it up.'

Lizzie Magnusson, Breast Cancer Care Policy and Campaigns Manager,said:

'We welcomes this report, which focuses on inequalities in older people’s cancer care.

'We know that increasing age is the second biggest risk factor (apart from being female) for developing breast cancer and around a third of female breast cancers are diagnosed in women aged 70 and over.

'Ensuring that older patients are valued in the healthcare system is an important area of work for Breast Cancer Care and we are currently working with MHP Health Mandate on a follow-up to our 2011 older women policy report.'

To find out more about our work please visit our campaigning pages for older women and breast cancer.

You can add your voice to our campaigning work at any age. For more information visit our pages about becoming a Breast Cancer Voice

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