Optimising surgical management of elderly cancer patients

World J Surg Oncol. 2005 Mar 23;3(1):17. doi: 10.1186/1477-7819-3-17.


BACKGROUND: Elderly population is on rise. It is an ethical dilemma how aggressive one should be when it comes to treat cancer in elderly. Presumed fear of increased postoperative morbidity and mortality has resulted in delivery of sub-optimal cancer surgery. METHODS: In this review article we visit physiology of the aged, tools available to assess surgical risks in oncogeriatric patients, and current practice in the management of common cancers encountered in surgical oncology, with the view of increasing awareness on optimising surgical management of senior patients with cancer. A pubmed search for cancer, surgery, elderly, was carried out. RESULTS: Cancer is on rise with increasing age predominantly affecting breast, gastrointestinal tract and lung. Increasingly more surgeons are offering surgery to elderly cancer patient but selection bias is prevalent. Available data reflect short and long-term outcome of cancer surgery in elderly is not greatly different to that of younger patient. Declining physiological reserve along with inability to respond adequately to physiological stress are salient age related changes. Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA) is not tested in surgical patient. There is need for a tool to define individualised operative risk. Preoperative assessment of cancer in elderly is designed to offer this information based on functional status of an individual utilising currently available tools of risk assessment. CONCLUSION: All elderly cancer patients should be offered optimal treatment depending on their functional status not on chronological age. Oncogeriatric patient would benefit from dedicated multidisciplinary approach. Recruitment of elderly cancer patients to more clinical trials is needed to enhance our knowledge and to offer optimum treatment to this unique subgroup.