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Chemotherapy for elderly patients with advanced cancer: is it worth it?
When people get older their chance of getting cancer increases. The number of old people in Australia is rising, so more people will get cancer.
One way to treat cancer is with medicines (chemotherapy). These treatments kill the cancer cells, but can also kill normal cells. This can cause serious side effects. If elderly people can take the treatment, it often works as well as it does in younger patients. However, a frail person may be unable to have their treatment because of these side effects.
To decide whether or not to have treatment the patients should ask lots of questions. They need to know what the chances are that the treatment will work. Will it make them live longer or just make some of their symptoms go away? What are the side effects of the treatment and how long will they last? It may be possible to talk to someone who has already had the treatment.
Treatments for cancer are improving all the time, but for many cancers there is still no cure. The quality of the patient's remaining life should be an important factor when thinking about chemotherapy.