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Flashcards in Cancer in the Elderly Deck (20):

1. ____% of all cancers occur in those age 65 or older
2. ____% of all cancer deaths occur in those age 65 or older

1. 60

2. 70


1. Senescence of the immune system with aging results in what? 2

2. Cancer growth factors differ with age
-What increased?
-What is altered?
-What may promote tumor growth?

- in less surveillance for abnormal cells
-Blunted T-cell and NK cell activity

-IL-6 increases
-Angiogenesis is altered
-Chronic inflammation may promote tumor growth


Some cancers have a more indolent course in the elderly
Examples? 3

1. Some non-small cell lung adenocarcinomas

2. Estrogen/progesterone responsive positive breast cancers

3. Prostate cancer


Some cancers are more aggressive in the elderly

1. AML
2. Large cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma
3. Celomic ovarian cancer


Most common cancer types overall

1. Breast
2. Prostate
3. Lung/bronchus
4. Colon and rectum


Cancer in the Elderly-
Why are cancer death rates so high?

1. Organ vulnerability (reduced physiologic reserves)
2. Co-existing illnesses
3. More aggressive tumors
4. More likely to have advance disease at presentation
5. Age bias
6. Health care access issues


Describe why age bias is a contributer to high death rates in the elderly?

1. Under treatment (“this treatment is too dangerous for elderly patients”)

2. Reduced participation in cancer screening programs (resulting in delayed diagnosis)

3. Under-representation in clinical trials (Exclusion of subjects > 70 years and Elderly patients make up only 10% of patients in some clinical trials)


Cancer in the Elderly-
Treatment Issues: Surgical risk factors for elderly?

1. Emergency surgery or prolonged surgery
2. Co-existing disease (especially CVD, COPD, DM)
3. Poor nutritional status (wound healing, infections)
4. Poor functional status


Radiation therapy major risks? 2

1. Mucositis (dehydration, malnourishment, sepsis)
2. Radiation pneumonitis


What tx has the most SE?



Down sides to Chemotherapy?

1. Increased susceptibility to toxicity (oral chemotherapy better tolerated than IV treatment)

2. Decreased functional reserves

3. Co-existing disease

4. Altered metabolism and distribution of drugs

5. Poor stem cell recovery

6. Dose adjustments for reduced GFR or anemia leads to decreased treatment effectiveness


Major risks for elderly

1. Myelosuppression-cumulative, more severe
2. Mucositis
3. Drug specific toxicities


What are the complications that are associated with the following risks:
1. Myelosuppression-cumulative, more severe? 3
2. Mucositis? 3
3. Drug specific toxicities?

1. Myelosuppression-cumulative, more severe
-Anemia (reduced oxygen carrying capacity)
-Neutropenia (sepsis)
-Thrombocytopenia (bleeding)

2. Mucositis

3. Drug specific toxicities
-Renal insufficiency (platinum containing drugs)
-Cardiotoxicity (anthracyclines)
-Neurotoxicity (platinum, taxanes, vincristine)


Cancer treatment decisions in older adults
What should be assessed? 6

1. Should be based on the tumor characteristics not age

2. Need an assessment of the patient’s functional status

3. Include risk of treatment vs. benefit and effects on quality vs. quantity of life

4. Guided by the patient's treatment goals

5. Avoid undertreatment of curable disease

6. Avoid overtreatment of indolent cancers or cancers with poor prognosis


1. Good estimate of quality of life, life expectancy, and ability to tolerate cancer treatment) is what?

2. Components of this? 4

1. Physiologic Age

2. Components
-Functional status
-Nutritional status
-Geriatric syndromes


Cancer in the Elderly-
Treatment planning: Comorbidities?

1. CVD
2. Respiratory disease
3. Thromboembolic disease
4. DM
5. Renal insufficiency
6. Neurologic disease
7. Anemia


What is Functional status and what is involved?

1. Functional status: self care and the ability to maintain an independent life

-Activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, continence, and transferring)

-Instrumental activities of daily living (use of transportation, shopping, ability to take medications, provide one’s own meals, manage finances, do laundry and housekeeping)


What is nutritonal status?

What red flags are we looking at? 4

Nutritional status: protein/calorie malnutrition, weight loss, loss of muscle mass

1. Weight loss > 10lbs over 6 months
2. Loss of muscle mass
3. BMI less than 20
4. Serum albumin less than 3.2 g/dl


Cancer in the Elderly-
Treatment planning: What are some geriatric syndromes that should be assessed with cancer?

1. Dementia
2. Delirium
3. Depression
4. Falls
5. Spontaneous fractures
6. Neglect and abuse
7. Incontinence
8. Nutritional problems


Cancer in the Elderly: Supportive care treatment includes?

1. Nutritional support-dietary counseling, dietary supplements, enteral feeding (G/J tube)

2. Anemia-epoetin alpha

3. Neutropenia-filgastrim (Epogen) or sargramostim (Leukine)

4. Thrombocytopenia-platelet transfusion

5. Mucositis-supportive care (hydration, “magic mouth wash,” diet modification, anti-diarrheals)

6. Nausea and vomiting-serotonin receptor antagonists (ondansetron)…limit use of anti-emetics with anticholinergic side effects

7. Pain control…often undertreated in the elderly

8. Patient reluctance to report pain

9. Atypical pain presentation (confusion, fatigue, withdrawal, depression)

10. Providers fear older patients won’t tolerate opiates

11. Communication problems (eg., cognitive impairment, language and cultural factors)