A new major report has suggested that a lack of staff and resources has meant that elderly people are now far less likely to receive surgery for cancer than younger people.
The study by Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) analysed more than 350,000 operations in England between 2006 and 2010, with 21 types of cancer being involved.
It found that younger people were more than twice as likely as pensioners to receive surgery for 19 different types of cancer. The findings have been described as “worrying” as some older people may not be being given the opportunity to receive life-saving surgery.
The figures are especially important as around half of cancers that are cured involve surgery at some stage.
Overall, those under 55 were two and a half times more likely than those over the age of 75 to receive surgery across all 21 cancer types analysed. The study also found that 59 per cent of younger people had surgery, compared to under a quarter (23 per cent) of older people.
The Cancer Research UK-backed research found the most significant differences were in patients suffering from kidney and ovarian cancers. However, similar patterns were also seen in breast, lung and bowel cancer, the three biggest cancer killers, analysts said.
It found the only two surgeries where there was no discrepancy between age groups were procedures in the windpipe.
Commenting on research, Clare Marx president of the Royal College of Surgeons said age alone can not be a reason for denying patients access to surgical opinion or treatment. For cancer sufferers, surgery is an effective treatment for many forms of the disease and leads to thousands of patients being cured, she added, and the big consideration should be their "biological state" rather than their age.
“This report highlights the need for more research to understand why some older patients are not being put forward for operations."
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