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Older Colon Cancer Patients Less Likely to Get Chemo
Date:3/16/2010

Study found one in two went without, while 87% of younger patients got it after surgery

TUESDAY, March 16 (HealthDay News) -- Older colon cancer patients are less likely than younger ones to receive potentially life-prolonging chemotherapy following surgery for their illness, a new study reveals.

The research indicates that those with advanced colon cancer who are over the age of 75 are both less likely to receive chemotherapy and more likely to receive less chemotherapy even when they are given the treatment.

Yet, prior research has indicated that surgery coupled with postoperative chemotherapy appears to reduce the risk of dying from the disease or experiencing a recurrence.

"So, we have to wonder why one of two older patients are not getting chemotherapy when the trials say they benefit from it," said study author Dr. Katherine L. Kahn, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

"One reason is that there aren't that many older patients enrolled in study trials, and so doctors aren't comfortable with the research findings regarding the elderly," Kahn noted. "And there also isn't much written about how you manage those patients. But we studied what happens, and we find that the half that gets treated do great, just as well as younger patients who get chemotherapy."

Kahn, who is also a member of UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, and colleagues report their findings in the March 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to American Cancer Society estimates, more than 106,000 Americans were newly diagnosed with colon cancer, and nearly 50,000 men and women died from the disease, last year alone.

Previous research has indicated that, regardless of age, patients who receive chemotherapy following surgery are 24 percent less likely to die and 32 percent less likel
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