(Mirror Daily, United States) – According to the latest studies, cancer surgery is riskier for the elderly than it is for the middle-aged patients. Elderly people are more prone to develop serious health complications after they go through cancer surgery because their immune system and their metabolism are slower than in middle-aged patients.
A U.S. study concluded that around one in ten adults who are older than 55 suffered from at least one post-operative problem. The most common issues are dehydration, delirium, falls, pressure ulcers, weight loss and fractures.
Also, patients aged 65 and older seemed to develop these setbacks even more often than those aged 55 and older. The patients from this group age usually presented additional serious health problems and were often operated for digestive system tumors or unusual growths nearby organs.
The worst odds were those of patients aged 75 and older. The chances of developing a post-operative health issue were of 46 percent. This is more than double the 22 percent that was estimated for patients aged 55 and older.
Hung-Jui Tan, the lead author of the study and urologic oncology researcher at the California University in Los Angeles said that there are a plenty of factors that have to be considered in the case of an elderly patient. According to Dr. Tan, cancer surgery is riskier for the elderly and it can have a serious impact on their life quality, functionality, and vitality.
For this study, Dr. Tan and his team used a data sample from 940,000 adult patients nationwide. The data studied belonged to patients aged 55 and older who underwent cancer surgery in between 2009 and 2011.
Operations that were meant to resect tumors from the area of the ovary, bladder, rectum, colon, stomach or pancreas were the most likely to develop post-operative complications.
There are a couple of factors that could influence the results of the study. The first one is the fact that the study was made using administrative data. The researchers say that some of the data may be corrupt because this kind of administrative information doesn’t always reflect some of the nuances of a patient’s condition due to its billing purposes.
Also, there are no means of checking if the patients were already suffering from some of the illnesses that were described as complications by their physicians.
A geriatric researcher from the University Hospital in Oslo, Norway, Siri Rostoft, declared that even though cancer surgery is riskier for the elderly, some of the complications are not life or lifestyle-threatening. For example weight loss and dehydration can be managed with a slight diet change.
Dr. Rostoft, who had no involvement in the cited study, said that the complications of cancer surgery are more manageable than cancer itself. According to him, the elderly should take into consideration the fact that cancer is much more lethal than the possible post-operative problems.
Another doctor, Steven Cunningham, a researcher at the Hospital of Saint Agnes and the Baltimore Cancer Institute, declared that the study is valuable because it offers both the doctors and the patients a sort of measuring unit. Thus, the physician and the patient can weigh in the risks of having or not having cancer surgery.
Researcher and doctor at Nottingham University and a member of the Geriatric Oncology International Society, Kwok-Leung Cheung, also noted the fact that, according to the study, cancer surgery complications appear more often in non-teaching hospitals than in teaching hospitals. The hospital where the operation is made is also an important factor that the patient must take into consideration when deciding whether or not to undergo cancer surgery.
Cancer surgery is riskier for the elderly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should stop fighting with the illness. If the tumor allows it, the surgeons could consider using non-invasive procedures like robotic or laparoscopic surgery.
Image source: www.flickr.com