Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.
A study exploring the experiences of older people with cancer
This study tried to learn more about the experiences of older people with cancer. It was for people older than 65 years who had any type of cancer.
More about this trial
Older people with cancer may be offered different treatments to younger people. Researchers want to find out more about this.
In this study, they talked to people over the age of 65 about their experiences of having cancer and cancer treatments. The aim was to understand more about the experiences of older people with cancer.
Summary of results
The study team found that age is not a barrier to having cancer treatment. And that people need good information and support to understand and manage their cancer and care. But they had difficulties finding people over the age of 85 for this study. So these results may not represent the experiences of all older people.
23 people agreed to take part in this study. People were aged between 65 and 84. The study team couldn’t find anyone older than 85 years.
Most people taking part had had cancer in the past. Most were proactive about their health and their outlook (prognosis) was good. Outside of their cancer diagnosis, most were fit and healthy.
The people taking part had been most recently diagnosed with:
- breast cancer
- bladder cancer
- bowel cancer
- a womans cancer
- head and neck cancer
- blood cancers
- stomach cancer
- prostate cancer
Everyone who took part had an interview. They were asked about:
- the symptoms they had before seeing a cancer doctor, at the time of their diagnosis and during and after treatment
- how healthcare professionals talked, gave information and supported them
- the issues they had because of their age
The research team found that older people had treatment for their cancer with:
In general, people thought their fitness level and the stage of their cancer (how far it had grown or spread) were the most important factors in the cancer care they received, rather than how old they were. Treatment was offered if the doctors thought the older person could physically cope with it.
However, people thought some treatments were not offered because of their age.
The study team also found that there had been some delays in diagnosis. This was because doctors thought some cancer symptoms were related to age.
Having a good relationship with their GP or hospital doctor was considered important in getting a diagnosis. But some people said they had to insist that action was taken about their symptoms.
Good communication was important. People who felt well informed reported having good treatment and care.
The people who had done their own research or been given a lot of information felt involved in their treatment and care. Those who had done their own research were most likely to challenge their doctors about the choices available to them.
People felt having a good support network was helpful for them to manage their own care. Particularly when they had no easy access to family or friends. But this support was not always available. It was suggested that having a person such as a GP or other health professional directly involved in their care would be useful.
So age is not the main factor in treatment and care for cancer but it may play a role in delaying diagnosis. Older people need good information and support to be able understand their diagnosis and treatment and to manage their care.
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Picker Institute Europe