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Patients Ask, Am I too Old for Cancer Surgery?: June 6, 2019

When discussing surgical treatment options with patients diagnosed with cancer, there’s one question surgical oncologist Dr. Mark Bloomston doesn’t ask. “I never ask the age. The age to me is not so relevant.”

Whether the patient is in their 80s or 90s is not important when deciding if they qualify for a life-saving procedure. “I would never rule patients out just because of a number on a driver’s license. These patients, in spite of their age, can handle a major operation, or in other words, their only chance at a cure,” said Dr. Mark Bloomston, a surgical oncologist on the medical staff of Lee Health.

Cancer involving a solid tumor typically is only cured by removing it. This includes all GI cancers, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, and lung cancer.  “The cancers that we deal with the only chance of cure is to remove them, and those operations are certainly life-changing. I will tell you that the patients typically know what they can handle. And the patients are usually not the ones afraid; it’s the family that’s afraid,” he said.

But there are other factors that doctors say do need to be considered. “The easiest test to figure out where a patient begins is how they walk into the office, do they walk into the office. If a patient comes in in a wheel chair and it isn’t because they have bad knees, it’s because they are short of breath, they have bad edema problems, that’s a patient who’s probably not going to handle the operation well, regardless of their age,” said Dr. Bloomston.

If a patient is not in good health, doctors may suggest other alternatives to cancer treatment. Addressing all treatment options is important to extending a patient’s life and possibly curing them of cancer.


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