Approximately two-thirds of Americans living with lung cancer are age 65 or older. In fact, the average age of diagnosis for this condition is 70. Mesothelioma, another form of cancer that frequently affects the respiratory system, is also primarily diagnosed in older individuals. Approximately three-quarters of mesothelioma patients are age 65 or older.
The reason these types of cancer disproportionately affect older Americans may be attributed to the fact that as an individual ages, his or her risk for nearly all types of cancer increases. This is because cells are constantly regenerating and with each subsequent regeneration, mutations in the cell are more likely to occur and become cancerous. With mesothelioma, there is also the issue of latency – decades can elapse between an individual’s exposure to asbestos and their initial mesothelioma symptoms.
Lung cancer and mesothelioma are often treated with multi-modal treatment regimens that include chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Factors such as the stage of the patient’s cancer and their overall health play a role in determining the type of treatment they receive. When determining the right treatment plan for an elderly individual, doctors must consider how the patient’s age will impact the effectiveness of the treatment. Side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy include damage to the nervous system, reduced appetite, tooth decay, and radiation pneumitis that can be much more severe in older patients than in younger patients. When surgery is also part of a patient’s treatment plan, reduced organ function after the surgery is also a concern.
In addition to the side effects that can accompany cancer treatment, elderly patients often suffer from unrelated physical conditions that make effective treatment more difficult. These include reduced physical and, in some cases, cognitive function, nutritional deficiencies, and conditions such as high blood pressure that require daily medication.
This does not mean that older patients cannot receive effective cancer treatment that leads to remission. It simply means that age is a factor that must be considered alongside other facts about a patient, such as their overall fitness level, history of smoking, and family history of cancer when determining an appropriate treatment plan. When the best possible quality of life is the goal for a treatment plan, the right course of action for an older individual may be quite different from the right course of action for younger patients.
If you are suffering from mesothelioma because of negligence on the part of a former employer or another party that led to prolonged asbestos exposure in Philadelphia, you may be entitled to compensation for your related damages. Complete our online form or call the Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler today at 215-569-4000 or toll-free at 800-369-0899 to schedule your initial consultation in our Philadelphia office. We proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.