In an alarming indictment of ageism at the National Health Service (NHS), doctors and nurses have admitted that elderly cancer patients are sometimes being written off as "too old for treatment".
Claran Devane, chief executive of the Macmillan Cancer Support, said that the number of people aged 65 and over who were living with cancer was "set to rocket in the next 20 years from 1.3 million to 4.1 million". Mr. Devane added that "Unless the barriers to timely treatment are tackled now, many older people could die unnecessarily from cancer and services will become unaffordable".
The report co-authored by the Macmillan trust, Department of Health and Age UK, warns that the elderly people did not appear to be benefitting from advances in fighting cancer. It noted "from 1995-97 to 2003-05, cancer mortality rates fell by 16-17 per cent for those under 75, but increased by two per cent in those aged over 85." It added: "there is a growing body of evidence to suggest older patients are less likely to receive the most clinically effective treatment for their cancer".