Fears of Increased Risk of Late Diagnosis of Cancer as Elderly Patients Denied Vital Treatment Based on Their Age

It is well understood within the medical profession, that early diagnosis of cancer can vastly improve a patient’s chances of surviving the disease.

That is why the findings of a recent Macmillan Cancer report are so worrying – from a survey of over 1,000 elderly patients, more than 80% believed doctors were making “snap” decisions based on their age and ignored early warning signs of cancer, potentially leading to late diagnosis of cancer or cancer misdiagnosis.

Many of those surveyed were simply told “not to worry” about the adverse symptoms they were experiencing and had approached their doctor about. This raises serious concerns about the increased risk of late cancer diagnosis among the elderly. Other respondents to the survey were incorrectly informed they were “too old” for breast cancer screening, thus restricting their access to services aimed at preventing delayed diagnosis of cancer.

Increased Risk of Late Diagnosis of Cancer in Over 75s

Figures released by Macmillan now indicate that over 75s are five times less likely to receive life-saving cancer treatment than younger victims of the disease. It seems that many over 75s feel they are victims of ageism when it comes to late diagnosis of cancer, and have been overlooked for vital operations or corrective procedures purely because of their age.

Other complaints include the notion that younger, “more emotional” patients were receiving preferential treatment and more attention from nurses, who would have them jumped up the queue for chemotherapy. One 69 year-old patient even levelled the accusation that the NHS was guilty of “culling” older patients by reserving the most effective and costly cancer treatments for patients perceived to have a longer remaining lifespan. Studies have also shown that women and the elderly are more at risk of a late cancer diagnosis than anybody else.

Dominic Graham, solicitor at Blackwater Law and specialist in late diagnosis of cancer compensation claims, said:

“This latest research by Macmillian is of great concern. If the findings are to be believed, there may be many elderly cancer patients that have unnecessarily received a delayed diagnosis of cancer, thus limiting their chances of responding positively to treatment, simply due to ageism from staff within the NHS.

“This, combined with the accusation that effective cancer treatments, are being diverted from elderly cancer patients to younger ones, may suggest a large number of elderly cancer patients are unknowingly the victim of clinical negligence.” Amidst these shocking developments some senior cancer specialists are calling for a quota or ration of the more expensive and effective treatment procedures to be set aside for elderly patients.

Commenting on the nature of the report’s findings, Jagtar Dhanda – who works for the Macmillan – issued the following statement:

Too often the healthcare system makes snap judgments on an older person on the basis of their age, as opposed to what matters most to them. Older people are simply not getting a fair deal when it comes to cancer care.

Elderly Patients ‘Not Turning Down’ Vital Cancer Treatment

Macmillan’s report has also undermined the long-held preconception that it is elderly patients themselves who are turning down vital cancer treatment due to fears relating to side-effects. Only 2% of the patients questioned in the sample claim to have turned down treatment, whilst a great many more have been forced to actively pursue and pressure for it after initially being turned away.

Caroline Abrahams of Age UK also issued a statement in relation to the report’s findings:

“To jump to the conclusion that someone is unsuitable for treatment on the basis of their age alone is plain ageist and thus totally unacceptable.

Claiming Compensation for Late Diagnosis of Cancer

If you or a family member feel you have been unfairly denied cancer treatments or examination procedures, or you have been the victim of a late diagnosis of cancer, you may be able to bring a claim for medical negligence compensation.

Call Blackwater Law clinical negligence solicitors in Essex today on 0800 083 5500 and speak to a clinical negligence solicitor who will quickly tell you whether you may be entitled to compensation for delayed cancer diagnosis or misdiagnosis of cancer.