Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

The Age Old Excuse: time to treat older people as individuals not as statistics!

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OPAAL is supporting Macmillan’s Age Old Excuse campaign which aims to challenge ageist attitudes in cancer care. Evidence shows older people are less likely to be offered appropriate curative cancer treatments than younger people and it’s time that stopped. People need to be treated as individuals and not as statistics.

Here’s Geoff‘s experience:

I went to my GP after suffering a burning sensation on passing urine. He thought it was likely to be an infection and put me on antibiotics. When they didn’t work, I went back. The specialists soon confirmed that I had prostate cancer. What surprised me most was a discussion about my treatment options. I was told that I could have surgery to remove the tumour if the cancer hadn’t spread. But they explained that if I was over 70, they may not have offered to operate at all.I thought that was discriminatory, and clearly ageist. The role of the medical profession is to prolong life, no matter what age. Surgery could give someone another 20 years.

This might explain why the UK has some of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe for older people. According to Macmillan every year there are around 14,000 avoidable cancer deaths in people over 75 and one of the reasons for that is that they are simply not offered the right treatment.

The Macmillan campaign calls for

  • Older people to be offered treatment and care based on fitness not their age
  • Services to be made accessible to meet the needs of older people
  • Staff to be given the time and training needed to provide the best possible care

It’s worth having a look at the campaign film Macmillan have made. Patrick Stewart supports the Age Old Excuse Campaign, it’s time we all did.

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Author: Marie McWilliams

OPAAL's National Development Officer

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