Cancer Treatment and the Elderly: July 8, 2019
For surgical oncologist, Dr. Mark Bloomston, a patient’s age is just a number. “The oldest patient I’ve done this operation on is a 99-year-old. He was out of the hospital within five days,” said Dr. Bloomston, a surgical oncologist on the medical staff of Lee Health.
With tumor-related cancers, like pancreatic, liver, lung, thyroid, and stomach cancer, typically the best form of treatment is surgery. “We are extending their lives through this operation since it is the only shot at cure,” he said.
But many times, patients in the 70s, 80, and 90s don’t believe surgery is an option. “A very high proportion, arguably the majority of elderly patients, are never offered an opportunity to have curative therapy and in most cases, they never even met a surgeon to be explained what the risks truly are,” he said.
For Dr. Bloomston, a patient’s risk is not based on their age, but solely on their health. “There have been plenty of studies that have shown scientifically, that patients over the age of 80 do just as well as the younger patients. Sometimes we jokingly say that our patients in their 80s do better than the ones in their 40s and 50s because they’re tough. They have gone through a lot of things in life that may have shortened someone else’s life,” Dr. Bloomston said.
If a patient is healthy enough for surgery, the procedure can potentially add years to their life—and possibly offer a cure. An option that shouldn’t be ruled out based only on their age.