-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- A study of seniors with
non-small cell lung cancer found that older patients are less
likely to receive treatment than younger patients, regardless of
their overall health and prognosis.
Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung
For this study, U.S. researchers looked at data from more than
20,000 lung cancer patients aged 65 and older in the VA Central
Cancer Registry between 2003 and 2008 and found that, for all
stages of lung cancer, younger, sicker patients were more likely to
receive treatment than otherwise healthy older patients.
That may not be best for patients, the researchers said.
Previous research has shown that older lung cancer patients who are
otherwise healthy can benefit from treatment, while those with
other illnesses are more vulnerable to the toxicity of cancer
"It's clear that, as human beings and physicians, we fixate on age in deciding whether to pursue cancer treatments, including lung cancer treatments. Instead, we should be looking at our patients' overall state of health," lead author Dr. Sunny Wang, a physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, said in a university news release.
The study was published May 1 in the
Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Patients aged 65 to 74 who were severely ill from other
illnesses -- and thus less likely to benefit from and more likely
to be harmed by cancer treatment -- received treatment at about the
same rate as patients in the same age range with no other
These patients were more likely to receive treatment than
patients aged 75 to 84 who had no other illnesses and better
"The message here is, don't base cancer treatment strictly on age," Wang said. "Don't write off an otherwise healthy 75-year-old, and don't automatically decide to treat a really ill 65-year-old without carefully assessing the risks and benefits for that patient."
The American Cancer Society has more about
non-small cell lung cancer.
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