In my last post entitled The Healthcare System and Cancer Treatment for the Elderly, I wrote about, among others, the poll conducted by Macmillan Cancer Support that elderly cancer patients in UK are being denied proper treatment due to age discrimination. The Macmillan concluded that the UK has some of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe for older people. My concern is, such practice may eventually extend to Malaysia as well.
That issue has received further clarification and explanation from Ms Suzan St Mour (she volunteers as a cancer patient representative within the NHS), who has graciously consented for her opinion to be posted here as well.
There does seem to be some discrimination towards the elderly with cancer BUT it is confined to certain regions – there is a lot of variation from one area to another. Recently in the UK press there was a huge stink about the “Liverpool Care Pathway” which is a protocol you get put on when you have 24 hours or so left to live. Some family members were deeply concerned that elderly people were being put on this pathway without adequate consideration. Their concern was largely unfounded but the doubt has spread now over into cancer treatments. Macmillan is taken very seriously by the NHS, especially as it – as a charity – funds a great deal of cancer services within the NHS … so with luck the pressure they are putting on the NHS will help regulate the problem, wherever there is one.
What you have to remember is that most cancer treatments are very aggressive and can be harder on patients than the disease itself. With older patients, oncologists often have to make a decision based on whether the patient’s overall health and stamina can withstand the severity of the treatment, and sometimes the answer is “no.” My mother, for example, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer at the age of 82 and because of her general frailty it was decided not to operate or give chemo, but merely to give palliative RT. Harsher treatment probably would have killed her faster than the cancer; but had she been 20 years younger, she probably could have withstood the treatment, had it, and had a few more years.
In case anyone has any question for Ms Suzan St Mour, they can contact her via her blog: HowToWriteBetter.net.
Personally, I have encountered a cancer patient who, though barely 30 years old, have decided not to receive any conventional treatment, but opted for traditional medicine. She passed away a few years later. Another friend, aged almost 40 years, opted for conventional treatment, but she passed away due to other complications during surgery. A friend’s mom, who opted for surgery and chemo at 40, is still battling cancer 10 years later. I am sure there are different factors to be considered in each case, but my point is, nothing is certain.
Related Post: Mammogram Subsidy – Early Screening Could Save Lives…
– The Healthcare System and Cancer Treatment for the Elderly : A Follow Up