Australian society is aging and as cancer incidence increases with age, the care of older people with cancer is a growing concern. The majority of literature around cancer care, however, focuses on a younger population.
Aims: To explore the experiences, decision making and the impact of age on older people with cancer.
Methods: In this qualitative research, semi structured interviews were conducted with 10 older people with cancer. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. Consecutive interviews were continued until saturation of themes occurred. A thematic analysis was undertaken, which was reviewed by a second investigator with points of divergence compared, discussed and consensus reached.
Results: The interviewees simultaneously felt younger than their chronological age and had an awareness of age bought on by physical symptoms and having encountered losses. They spontaneously brought up thoughts about their own mortality. Interviewees generally followed their doctors advice with little questioning. When the patients chose not to follow the doctor’s advice, they favoured an approach with goals of comfort over life prolongation, because they were aware of their limited life expectancy. When considering treatment options views and needs of family were central.
Conclusions: Healthcare professionals need to be mindful that older people tend to follow medical advice with little questioning and therefore initiate opportunities for discussion and negotiation of treatment goals. The importance of the broader social network should be recognised and older people offered the opportunity to involve these people in healthcare discussions.