Cancer chemotherapy in older adults. A tolerability perspective.
The incidence of cancer increases with age. Since the geriatric population is growing, we will be confronted with an increasing number of patients with cancer who are > 65 years of age. The purpose of this review is to address the use of cancer chemotherapy in older persons with respect to its tolerability. We performed a review of the literature using 'Medline' and the bibliographies of pertinent publications. Information about cancer treatment in older adults was extracted with particular attention to chemotherapy-related toxicity in patients aged > 65 years. Comorbid disease, polypharmacy/drug interactions, psychosocial issues and age-related physiological changes are major issues in caring for older patients with cancer. Since older individuals may have a greater number of comorbid illnesses, treatment should be initiated on the basis of physiological rather than chronological age. Comparative studies show that chemotherapy-related toxicity is similar in older and younger patients, with the exception of haematological toxicity, which may be more severe in older patients, and cardiotoxicity, which is more frequent in the elderly. Other evidence suggests that gastrointestinal and neurotoxicities may also be more severe in older individuals. The dosages of chemotherapeutic agents that are primarily renally excreted may require adjustment in older patients. Haematological reserve is decrease in older individuals, and drugs that cause myelosuppression must be used with care. The use of haemopoietic growth factors in geriatric patients is currently being investigated.
Kimmick, GG; Fleming, R; Muss, HB; Balducci, L
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