Introduction: In France, the average age for the diagnosis of bronchial carcinoma is 64. It is 76 in the population of over 70. In fact, its incidence increases with age linked intrinsic risk of developing a cancer and with general ageing of the population. Diagnosis tools are the same for elderlies than for younger patients, and positive diagnosis mainly depends on fibreoptic bronchoscopy, complications of which being comparable to those observed in younger patients.
State of the art: The assessment of dissemination has been modified in recent years by the availability of PET scanning which is increasingly becoming the examination of choice for preventing unnecessary surgical intervention, a fortiori in elderly subjects. Cerebral imaging by tomodensitometry and nuclear magnetic resonance should systematically be obtained before proposing chirurgical treatment. An assessment of the general state of health of the elderly subject is an essential step before the therapeutic decision is made. This depends on the concept of geriatric evaluation: Geriatric Multidimensional Assessment, and the Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment which concerns overall competence of the elderly.
Perspectives: This is a global approach that allows precise definition and ranking of the patient's problems and their impact on daily life and social environment. Certain geriatric variables (IADL, BADL, MMSE, IMC etc) may be predictive of survival rates after chemotherapy or the incidence of complications following thoracic surgery. The main therapeutic principles for the management of bronchial carcinoma are applicable to the elderly subject; long term survival without relapse after surgical resection is independent of age. Whether the oncological strategy is curative or palliative, the elderly patient with bronchial carcinoma should receive supportive treatments. They should be integrated into a palliative programme if such is the case. In fact, age alone is not a factor that should detract from optimal oncological management.
Conclusions: The development of an individual management programme for an elderly patient suffering from bronchial carcinoma should be based on the combination of oncological investigation and comprehensive geriatric assessment.