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Cancer Genetics

Cancer Treatment and Age

11/24/1999

Question:

How are different cancer patients treated differently? Is special care given to younger patients or older patients? Or does it really matter with age?

Answer:

All cancer patients are treated individually.

Pediatric age patients are usually treated with special protocols that have been specifically developed for the pediatric population. The types of cancers that occur in children are usually very different from the types that are found in adults.

The treatment of cancer in the older or geriatric patient is also slightly different because of changes in bodily function that occur as a normal part of the aging process. The ability of the kidneys to clear waste products from the blood decreases with age so it is important to avoid or limit chemotherapy drugs that could damage the kidneys. Similarly, the heart of a 75 year old may not pump as efficiently as the heart of a 40 year old. Some chemotherapy drugs affect the heart and should be used carefully.

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Response by:

Judith A Westman, MD Judith A Westman, MD
Associate Professor, Clinical Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Medical Biochemistry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University