The Healthcare System and Cancer Treatment for the Elderly

Cancer Treatment for the Elderly

According to the controversial World Health Report 2010 by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Kingdom is ranked 18, even better positioned than Canada (30), Australia (32) , Finland (31), US (37), etc.

In Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary film, Sicko, United Kingdom’s healthcare system has also been lauded as among the best in the world.

National Health Service

The majority of health care for the resident of the United Kingdom is provided by the UK government, through the National Health Service.  Provided for free at the point of service, the program is funded by taxes.  However, moves to privatize certain areas have been discussed recently.

Still, since I watched Sicko, I have held United Kingdom’s healthcare system in great esteem, though the best was stated to be the French Healthcare system, followed by Italy.

Therefore, I was quite disconcerted when I read about the alleged age discrimination in UK where older cancer patients are being denied the best treatments.

Macmillan Cancer Support’s Poll

According to a poll conducted by Macmillan Cancer Support, nearly half of the specialist cancer medics believe that age discrimination by doctors is resulting in older cancer patients not getting the best treatment.  45% of 155 GPs, oncologists and specialist cancer nurses surveyed said they have dealt with a cancer patient who has been refused treatment on the grounds that they were too old.

In short, if you are around 60 and above, regardless of the state of your physical and mental health, be prepared to accept the possibility that you may be left to die.

The Macmillan report article has received a general agreement and some comments by readers which are based on their personal experience and opinion, such as:

jane.r , darlington : I know this may get red arrowed, but when there is a limit to funds, this is bound to happen. With limited resources,if you were in charge, who would you give treatmentto first? The 75 year old, or a 35 year old with children? It’s an awful thing to say, but unless more funds are made available, this is going to continue.

Rupert , Poitiers, France : unfortunately this article brings it home to me (73yrs) and suffering from cancer why I have to stay in France, instead of moving back to be near my family., here I have the best of treatment, blood tests every month scans as required and a drug that is not “allowed” in the uk on cost considerations, so far I have survived 8 yrs and am still able to enjoy a normal life. When my cancer came back last year I was offered a place on a trial of a new drug, which did not become necessary as my usual drug did the trick. Another thing is that in order to save money on hospital transport, I am now PAID to drive my own car to treatments.

alan, nottingham, United Kingdom : A very comforting article! I am 75 and have cancer. For two years now my consultant has adopted a “wait-and-see” policy over how it develops! My routine hospital visits consist of a blood test and five minute consultation, before being told to come back in six months time – for another blood test and five minute consultation. My daughters complain but nothing is done, except an “unofficial” suggestion: why don’t you pay to go privately using your savings?

Concerned , Enfield, United Kingdom : I feared that legalising mercy killings would be the slippery slope towards automatic euthanasia, but lo and behold, we have it already.

Therefore, based on their findings, Macmillan Cancer Support concluded that the UK has some of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe for older people.  This is in spite of the fact that, according to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, it is wrong and illegal to deny treatment just because of age.

The issue is a pressing concern because the number of older people (age 65 and above) in UK living with cancer is expected to rise from 1.3 million to 4.1 million in the next 20 years.  And as we know, aging population is the trend all over the world, especially in the developed and developing countries.

So, if the age discrimination is continued, many older people could die unnecessarily from cancer. 

If that is the trend in the UK, we fear that it may become the trend in other countries as well, especially in the present gloomy state of the economy.

Realising the severity of the situation, the UK government are investing more than £750 million over four years to improve cancer services and outcomes.  It is suggested that to ensure treatment decisions are not based on age alone, patients’ overall physical and mental wellbeing should be assessed and taken into consideration, and to enable that, the relevant staff must be given the time and training to carry out proper assessment of a patient’s overall physical and mental well being.

WHO’s Statistics

Before anyone dismiss the above disturbing development as irrelevant to their lives, please note that based on WHO’s statistics, 7.6 million people worldwide died of cancer in 2008.  There were an estimated 12.7 million cancer cases around the world (2008), of which 6.6 million cases were in men and 6.0 million in women. This number is expected to increase to 21 million by 2030. Approximately 70% of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries and 30% of cancers deaths could be prevented.

So, there is scantly any living adult nowadays who does not know somebody who has cancer.

Most Common Cancer

Cancer of the lung is the most common cancer in the world, representing 12.7% of all new cancers with an estimated 1.61 million new cases (2008) and lung cancer was also the most common cause of death from cancer, with 1.38 million deaths (18.2% of the total).  Smoking is said to be the principle cause of lung cancer and estimated to be responsible for 85% of all types of lung cancer.

I suggest, if you can’t quit smoking, do eat more veggies and fruits, and make sure you don’t smoke within the vicinity of kids and other non-smokers.

By the way, in case anyone is interested to know, in the WHO 2010 Report mentioned in the beginning of this post, Malaysia was placed at 50, with the expenditure per capita at 93.  Let’s compare our position (in terms of ranking/expenditure per capita) with our ASEAN member states : Brunei Darussalam (41/32), Cambodia (174/-), Indonesia (92/154), Lao PDR (165/-), Myanmar/Burma (190/-), Philippines (61/124), Singapore (6/37), Thailand (48/64) and Vietnam (160/-).

Bear in mind, the research was conducted way before 2010 and it received so much criticisms that a follow up report has never been seen until now.

– The Healthcare System and Cancer Treatment for the Elderly

2 thoughts on “The Healthcare System and Cancer Treatment for the Elderly

    1. saya agak skeptikal tentang “durian belanda boleh mengubat kanser”.. not that saya tak percaya..tapi so far belum pernah jumpa jurnal dan real life case tentang keberkesanannya..

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