Author(s): Balducci L
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Abstract Strategies for treating cancer are evolving to address the growing number of elderly patients with cancer. Older patients have highly variable physiologic ages, and their treatment should be individualized for optimal outcomes. Treatment paradigms should also take into account the diversity of patients' life expectancy, functional reserve, social support, and personal preference. A Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA) is a useful tool for estimating life expectancy and tolerance of treatment and for identifying reversible factors that may interfere with cancer treatment, including depression, malnutrition, anemia, neutropenia, and lack of caregiver support. Adopting a common language to describe older patients may facilitate the design and analysis of studies to determine effective drugs and care strategies for them. Information from a CGA can guide the prescription of potentially curative therapy, determine the best use of supportive care agents, and help identify frail patients for whom palliative care is the best option. There is evidence in a number of settings that the routine use of a CGA has a positive effect on health outcomes by reducing hospitalizations, preserving functional independence, and preventing geriatric syndromes. Guidelines for supportive care are also important in treating elderly patients with cancer. Pain, caused by cancer or its treatment, is prevalent, and guidelines for its assessment and treatment should be implemented to improve quality of life. Toxicities such as neutropenia and mucositis should be managed aggressively. Growth factors reduce the incidence and severity of neutropenia and its complications in older patients, particularly when they are administered in the early cycles of chemotherapy. The development of effective strategies for the management of toxicity caused by anticancer drugs may help the elderly, as much as younger patients, expect and look forward to a positive outcome with their treatment.
This article was published in J Support Oncol
and referenced in Journal of Palliative Care & Medicine