For a number of years we’ve been hearing about how Americans over the age of 85 represent the fastest growing segment of our nation’s population. Now, some of the impact of this phenomenon on the medical field is starting to become clear.
During a poster session at the annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology in San Diego, researchers from the department of radiation oncology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, reported that between 1997 and 2008 the number of patients over the age of 85 who presented for radiation oncology consultation increased 6.3-fold. Those that received treatment increased 7.4-fold, while those for whom the treatment was considered curative treatment increased 7.3-fold. No one malignancy was dominant.
In an interview, lead author Jessica Gross said that based on U.S. Census data, the increase in consults among those over age 85 is statistically more rapid than the overall population by about 8-fold. She also pointed out that little is known about the appropriate radiation oncology treatment of this patient population, due to the general exclusion of the elderly in clinical trials. “This is a growing population,” said Ms. Gross, who is currently a senior at Yeshiva University, New York. “They need specific attention.”
— Doug Brunk (on Twitter@dougbrunk)