A number of studies have shown that older people are less distressed by the diagnosis of cancer than their younger counterparts. This may be because older people have fewer dependants and they are less likely to suffer financial difficulties and to experience disruption to their daily routine following the diagnosis. It is surprising, therefore, that many elderly patients do not receive the biologically optimal treatment of their disease, even when comorbid medical conditions are taken into account. This appears to reflect an age bias amongst professionals involved in the management of cancer. There is a paucity of studies examining the perspective of elderly patients themselves regarding factors they consider important in their management. Elderly patients with cancer are not an homogeneous group in terms of their views about management. The vast majority of elderly patients, in common with younger patients, consider that giving the most effective treatment for breast cancer is just as important for older patients as it is for younger patients and that, in making a decision about the best treatment for them, the surgeon should only take account of the biological aspects of the disease. Clinicians, therefore, should avoid making assumptions about what patients wish simply on the basis of the age of the patient. Although there is a recent trend towards more elderly patients participating in oncology treatment trials, there is a great dearth of information about the acceptability and effectiveness of psychosocial interventions in elderly patients.
- Psychosocial oncology