Elderly cancer patients treated equally insists trust

By Steve Hayes 28/03 Updated: 30/03 09:11

HEALTH chiefs in South Warwickshire insist they are fully committed to the treatment of older cancer patients after claims they were being unfairly denied proper treatment.

A new report by cancer charity, Macmillan, revealed nationally a lower percentage of older patients were receiving major treatment such as surgery, or courses of chemotherapy, even though many could withstand it.

They say this is leading to some 14,000 avoidable cancer deaths in over 75s every year in the UK and have called on the medical profession to change its attitude to older patients.

But a spokesperson for South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust (SWFT), which runs Warwick and Stratford hospitals, insisted all cancer patients were treated the same 'regardless of age'.

An estimated 1,300 people over 75 will be diagnosed with cancer over the next five years in Stratford district alone and Macmillan is urging them to take matters into their own hands and insist upon the best possible treatment.

The charity has compiled a list of things older people should ask about their diagnosis and is encouraging them to ask for their medical notes and details of clinical trials.

Julie Smith, a Macmillan support manager in Warwickshire, said: "Efforts are being made to increase early diagnosis and promote healthier lifestyles but much more needs to be done to tackle under treatment.

"We have a duty to treat people as individuals and give them the best chance of beating cancer, regardless of their age.

"Many people in their 70s, 80s and beyond can tolerate treatments given to younger people and can be cured of cancer.

"As our population ages, and the number of people diagnosed with cancer grows, it is vital that steps are taken to ensure that people get the right treatment at the correct level of intensity, together with practical support to enable them to take up and complete the treatment."

But a spokesperson for SWFT insisted everything was done to ensure older people were treated the same.

They told us: "The Trust is fully supportive of Macmillan's advice to older people.

"Warwick Hospital implements many methods to ensure that patients receive the best possible care.

"All cancer patients, irrespective of their age are individually assessed and continually monitored taking into account their cancer diagnosis, the course of their illness and their performance status."

They insisted patients were always informed of clinical trials if they met eligibility criteria and were able to discuss concerns with nurses.

For more information visit macmillan.org.uk or call Macmillan’s support line on 08088 080 000.

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