One in two people will have cancer by age 85 and yet research shows compared to younger patients, older Australians have less access to acute treatments, information on side-effects and opportunities to take part in clinical trials.
A new online resource aims to address this, by supporting older patients to better understand and discuss their treatment and ensure others are aware of what they want.
The www.oldercan.org website includes tailored information and templates to help older patients share important personal information with their treating team, GP and family.
The project was led by Professor Mei Krishnasamy, who is Peter Mac’s Director of Academic Nursing and the University of Melbourne’s Chair in Cancer Nursing, and coordinated by Catherine Devereux, Research Project Manager at Peter Mac .
“We all have different needs and priorities. Some people want to try all treatments available, and others may not want treatment that impacts their quality of life,” Prof Krishnasamy said.
“Whatever their preference, people need to feel empowered to have open and honest conversations with their cancer teams to facilitate tailored decision making.
“Individuals can use our ‘This is me’ form to start discussions with their cancer team on their physical, emotional and social needs, and what they value for their quality of life.”
Prof Krishnasamy said the resource was designed to prompt discussions that can change a patient’s trajectory of care.
Understanding what is important to patients can support better discussions about possible side effects of treatment, and whether acute treatment is the best option for the patient.
Marilyn Dolling, a 78-year-old bowel cancer patient, used her experience as a patient and carer to inform the development of OlderCan.
“OlderCan provides people over 65 years old with resources to share what is important to us with our cancer teams, so that the care we receive can help us to achieve our plans and dreams,” Ms Dolling said.
Postcards alerting people to the new resource will be placed in medical waiting rooms and cancer centres and can be requested by email to [email protected].
The main resource was also designed to be printed so those without computer will not miss out.