Cancer may have a negative impact on both the physical and mental health of individuals as they age, indicates a new study, suggesting that cancer increases the risk for certain health issues above and beyond normal aging.
It may be partly due to decreased physical activity and stress associated with diagnosis and treatment. The findings showed that cancer patients demonstrated greater declines in activities of daily living and physical function, with the greatest change happening in lung cancer patients.
‘Clinicians should understand the unique impact of cancer on the health of individuals as they age.’
"Decreased physical functioning among older cancer patients compared with older adults without cancer is an important finding for clinicians because it is also actionable," said one of the researchers Corinne Leach from the American Cancer Society in the US. Also, having a cancer diagnosis increased risk for depression in the elderly.
However, it did not increase the likelihood of developing arthritis, incontinence (except for prostate cancer), or vision/hearing problems. For the results, published online in the journal CANCER, the team analysed cancer registry data that were linked to Medicare surveys and included 921 patients with a breast, colorectal, lung, or prostate cancer diagnosis. These patients were matched to 4605 controls without cancer.
"This prospective analysis used a propensity score matched control group to cancer cases that enabled us to tease apart the effects of cancer and ageing in a novel way," Leach noted. As the population of older adults grows, it is increasingly important for clinicians to understand the unique impact of cancer on the health of individuals as they age. "Clinicians need to prepare patients and families for this change in functioning levels and provide interventions that preserve physical function to limit the declines for older cancer patients," Leach said.