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cancer

Things that fascinate me about radiology

Author(s): 
Teaser: 

I was a family physician for 7 years before becoming a radiologist. There are some things ...

I was a family physician for 7 years before becoming a radiologist. There are some things I miss about family practice. I miss the longitudinal relationship that I often had with multiple generations of family members.

Section: 

Managing Cancer in Older Adults

Managing Cancer in Older Adults

Teaser: 

I am someone who believes fervently in screening for colon cancer, and have had two colonoscopies (separated by 5 years). Even those at normal risk seem to benefit from some form of screening, and I have been particularly concerned because I have had close relatives afflicted by the disease. However, it is clear that many people who should know better refuse to be screened. Even simple screening tests such as fecal occult blood testing require people to endure relatively unpleasant activities, and colonoscopy prep is hardly fun.

Independent of my views, it is obvious that the rising prevalence of cancer of all types in Canada is a result of the aging of our population and the relative decline in cardiovascular mortality. Many of today’s cancer patients are relatively frail, or become so while getting treatment, and attention to geriatric medicine principles in these patients is important. Most oncology training programs in the United States incorporate a geriatric module to cover these issues. We are lagging a bit behind in Canada in this respect, but I am proud to say that one of the nation’s outstanding leaders in the field of geriatric oncology is our own senior editor, Dr. Shabbir Alibhai. The focus of this month’s edition is how cancer management is altered in older adults.

Our continuing education article, “Management of Primary Colon Cancer in Older Adults,” is by Dr. Robin McLeod, Selina Schmocker, and Dr. Erin Kennedy. Obviously, I hope never to have to worry about this because I have a commitment to screening! The very common ( and currently in the press) topic of “Multiple Myeloma in Older Adults: An Update” is written by Dr. Madappa N. Kundranda and Dr. Joseph Mikhael. The commonest cancer in older individuals is addressed in the article “Basal Cell Carcinoma” by Dr. Christian A. Murray and Dr. Erin Dahlke.

As well, we have our usual collection of articles on varied topics. Our Cardiovascular column is an “Update on the Management of Atrial Fibrillation in Older Adults” by Dr. Hatim Al Lawati, Dr. Fatemeh Akbarian, and Dr. Mohammad Ali Shafiee. Our Dementia article is on a common and difficult topic, “Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment in Advanced Dementia: How and When to Make These Difficult Decisions,” by Dr. Dylan Harris. In the area of nutrition, we have the article “Nutrition Guidelines for Cancer Prevention: More Than Just Food for Thought” by Kristen Currie, Sheri Stillman, Susan Haines, and Dr. John Trachtenberg. This is a natural extension from our focus this month. Our Community Care article is “Community-Based Health Care for Frail Seniors: Development and Evaluation of a Program” by Dr. Douglas C. Duke and Teresa Genge. Finally we feature one of Canada’s most prominent physicians in our “I Am a Geriatrician” column, namely Dr. Howard Bergman.

Enjoy this issue,
Barry Goldlist

Supporting and Treating the Older Adult with Cancer: It Starts in Primary Care

Supporting and Treating the Older Adult with Cancer: It Starts in Primary Care

Teaser: 

As I rapidly advance towards the geriatric age group, fears of cancer, in my case colon cancer because of a positive family history, start to increase. As a result, the unpleasantness of a recent colonoscopy was greatly alleviated later on by learning that I had no polyps or tumours. I am not alone in my concern about cancer, and the increasing prevalence of cancer as our population ages (and as age-corrected cardiovascular mortality declines) make these concerns quite legitimate. This high prevalence of cancer means that nearly all physicians--specialists as well as family physicians--who cares for adult patients will be caring for individuals with cancer in their practice. This issue’s focus on cancer in older adults allows us to address some of the learning needs of physicians caring for older adults with cancer.

Before her untimely death from breast cancer, a colleague of mine at the University Health Network wrote poignantly about the fatigue she experienced with her cancer. This taught me that as important as relieving pain is in cancer, many other symptoms are equally distressing for the patient. Our continuing education article this month is on some of these symptoms, and is titled “Fatigue, Pain, and Depression among Older Adults with Cancer: Still Underrecognized and Undertreated” by Dr. Manmeet Aluwhalia. An overview for supportive care of patients with cancer is addressed in the article ”Psychosocial Oncology for Older Adults in the Primary Care Physician’s Office” by Dr. Bejoy Thomas and Dr. Barry Bultz. Finally, in the same vein, is the article “Palliative Care in the Primary Care Setting” by Dr. Sandy Buchman, Dr. Anthony Hung, and Dr. Hershl Berman.

Our Cardiovascular Disease column this month is on “Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease among Older Adults: An Update on the Evidence” by Dr. Pamela Katz and Dr. Jeremy Gilbert. Our Dementia column is on “Managing Non-Alzheimer’s Dementia with Drugs” by Dr. Kannayiram Alagiakrishnan and Dr. Cheryl Sadowski. One of the most important problems facing older adults, “Age-Related Hearing Loss,” is addressed by Dr. Christopher Hilton and Dr. Tina Huang. Urinary incontinence is usually considered a concern for older women; however, men are not exempt. Our Men’s Health column this month is on “Urinary Incontinence among Aging Men,” and is written by Dr. Ehab A. Elzayat, Dr. Ali Alzahran, and Dr. Jerzy Gajewski, who is a member of our partner association, the Canadian Society for the Study of the Aging Male. Dr. Gayatri Gupta and one of our international advisers, Dr. Wilbert S. Aronow, contribute an important article on "Prevalence of the Use of Advance Directives among Residents of a Long-term Care Facility" this month. Finally, it is imperative that physicians acknowledge the increasing prevalence of herbal medication use, which can lead to adverse drug interactions among their older patients. Dr. Edzard Ernst reviews this this topic in "What Physicians Should Know about Herbal Medicines.

Enjoy this issue.
Barry Goldlist

Update on Prostate Cancer among Older Men

Update on Prostate Cancer among Older Men

Teaser: 

Michel Carmel, MD, FRCSC, Professor, Sherbrooke University; Chair, Division of Urology, CHUS, Sherbrooke, QC.

Prostate cancer is the highest in incidence in Canada, ahead of lung and colon cancers. This is largely due to prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening. Choosing among management options, including watchful waiting, active surveillance, and surgery, seems more difficult than ever for the patient and his physician as new treatments are emerging, often presented as accepted alternatives, while long-term efficacy and toxicity results are not yet available.
Key words: cancer, prostate, older adults, prostate-specific antigen, screening.

Malignant Melanoma among Older Adults

Malignant Melanoma among Older Adults

Teaser: 

Wey Leong, MSc, MD, Department of Surgical Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital, University Health Network, University of Toronto, ON.
Alexandra M. Easson, MSc, MD, Department of Surgical Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital, University of Toronto, ON.
Michael Reedijk, PhD, MD, Department of Surgical Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital, University Health Network, University of Toronto, ON.

Melanoma must be considered in the differential diagnosis of any skin lesion in older adults. With the incidence of melanoma increasing in general and even more so among older people, more older adults are being diagnosed with melanoma than in the past. Among older adults, melanomas display more aggressive histological features with worse prognosis and treatment outcomes than among younger individuals. Furthermore, older individuals have fewer surgical and medical treatment options because of age-associated comorbidities. This article reviews the epidemiology and management of melanoma with emphasis on the older adult population.
Key words: older adults, melanoma, aged, cancer, skin neoplasm.

Distress—the Sixth Vital Sign in Cancer Care: Implications for Treating Older Adults Undergoing Chemotherapy

Distress—the Sixth Vital Sign in Cancer Care: Implications for Treating Older Adults Undergoing Chemotherapy

Teaser: 

Barry D. Bultz, PhD, Director, Department of Psychosocial Resources, Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Alberta Cancer Board; Department of Oncology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
Bejoy C. Thomas, PhD, Department of Psychosocial Resources, Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Alberta Cancer Board, Calgary, AB.
Douglas A. Stewart, MD, FRCPC, Divisions of Medical Oncology and Hematology, Departments of Oncology and Medicine, Tom Baker Cancer Centre and University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
Linda E. Carlson, PhD, Department of Psychosocial Resources, Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Alberta Cancer Board; Department of Oncology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Cancer is perceived as an illness that most frequently affects the older adult population, yet there is a dearth of research on the psychosocial aspects of cancer affecting this cohort. The effect of chemotherapy on the psychosocial sequelae in this group is moderately researched. This article discusses emotional distress across the trajectory of cancer care in the older adult population. It also identifies key milestones, times when distress is likely to peak, and the psychological, physiological, and social symptoms of distress. The benefits of psychosocial interventions are also discussed.
Key words: older adult, cancer, chemotherapy, emotional distress, 6th vital sign.

Identifying and Treating Depression among Older Adults with Cancer

Identifying and Treating Depression among Older Adults with Cancer

Teaser: 


Scott M. Sellick, PhD, CPsych, Associate Research Scientist & Director of Supportive Care, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, Thunder Bay, ON.

Approximately 25% of persons with cancer report symptoms that meet the diagnostic criteria for the most prevalent mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic minor depression, and adjustment disorder with depressed mood. This is two to four times the incidence found among the general population. To simply consider depression as “normal” precludes the possibility that some very good things can happen when patients are properly diagnosed and referred to a psychosocial program to be seen by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker. Asking about a patient’s general mood or spirits needs to become as routine as asking about pain. While screening instruments can be very helpful, single questions are equally useful for identifying patients with this unmet need. Otherwise, patients remain feeling helpless or that their condition is hopeless, and this can easily spiral into despair and significantly worsened depression.
Key words: cancer, depression, psychosocial, supportive care, coping.

Fever in Older Cancer Patients: A Medical Emergency

Fever in Older Cancer Patients: A Medical Emergency

Teaser: 


Deepali Kumar MD, MSc, FRCP(C), Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Immunocompromised Host Service, University Health Network; Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.

The incidence of cancer continues to increase, and many persons receiving treatment for cancer are older adults. Fever in older adults with cancer can be an emergency. Any patient with fever and neutropenia should be given antibiotics as soon as possible. In addition to the immune senescence associated with aging, individuals with cancer have immunodeficiencies specific to their underlying malignancy, and these predispose them to specific infections. Older adults are also at higher risk of the complications of chemotherapy, including infections. Prompt evaluation and judicious management of the febrile cancer patient can reduce morbidity and mortality. The following review considers an approach to the etiologies and evaluation of fever in cancer including the infectious and noninfectious causes.
Key words: fever, cancer, older adults, antibiotics, neutropenia.

Further Reflections on Cancer, Old Age, and the Meaning of Life

Further Reflections on Cancer, Old Age, and the Meaning of Life

Teaser: 

It’s been over five years since I last wrote an editorial for Geriatrics & Aging.1 Many things have changed in the world of geriatric oncology yet much remains the same. Cancer remains the number two killer among men and women. The top cancer killers have not changed--lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate. And more than half of all cancers strike people age 65 or older, with over two-thirds of all cancer deaths in the same age group. Although the incidence continues to climb (especially for lung cancer), in the last two years there has been a small but important victory in the battle against cancer--the mortality rate from cancer has dropped slightly. And, on a more personal level, I’m still very active in research in this field, in both prostate cancer and hematological malignancies.

There is a growing recognition of the importance of cancer among older people. This goes beyond the staggering numbers of the demographic imperative and the stark incidence and mortality statistics. It strikes at deeper chords: Should older people be screened for cancer? (If so, which cancers? What manoeuvres? How much will this cost? Who should pay?) Why aren’t we enrolling more older people with cancer into clinical trials? (Between 5-15% of cancer patients in clinical trials are older adults, a ratio far lower than actual numbers would suggest.) How should we best treat older people with cancer? (Do we use the same protocols or are older people special, needing modified protocols and/or more colony-stimulating factors? Is aggressive treatment worth it, and who should decide worth, using what yardstick?) Important and difficult questions linger. While some things are becoming clearer (e.g., rational treatment of older people with lymphoma, metastatic colorectal cancer, or estrogen receptor-positive nodal breast cancer), far more questions than answers remain and new questions emerge all the time.

Regular readers know that cancer is one of our regular themes, which we have featured every single year since we began publishing Geriatrics & Aging. The reasons for this are too obvious to need explication. In this issue, our CME article, “Fever in Older Adults with Cancer,” is written by Dr. Deepali Kumar, an infectious diseases specialist with a focus on oncology-related infections. She reviews key considerations and principles when dealing with an older febrile cancer patient. Many younger and older cancer patients complain of fatigue, either during active cancer therapy or years later. A tremendous amount of research is being done in this area (including some of my own) to unravel the causes and treatments of this condition, and Drs. Jean-Pierre and Morrow review the assessment of such patients for us. Another important intersection between cancer and overall health is in the realm of mental health, specifically depression. Depressive symptoms are common among persons suffering from a variety of cancers. Yet depression remains underdiagnosed and undertreated in this vulnerable group. Dr. Sellick from the Thunder Bay Regional Cancer Centre tries to dispel this notion and tackle this important area. Outside of our theme, we have articles on postural and postprandial hypotension, sleep disturbances in dementia, the role of the TB skin test in long-term care, exercise in patients with Parkinson’s Disease, and the ever-popular topic of skin ulcers. As always, we hope you enjoy the issue.

Shabbir M.H. Alibhai, MD, MSc, FRCP(C)

Reference

  1. Alibhai SMH. Cancer, old age, and the meaning of life. Geriatrics & Aging 2001;4:5.

Care of the Menopausal Woman: Beyond Symptom Relief

Care of the Menopausal Woman: Beyond Symptom Relief

Teaser: 

Lynne T. Shuster, MD, Women’s Health Clinic, Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN, USA.
Sharonne N. Hayes, MD, Women’s Heart Clinic, Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN, USA.
Mary L. Marnach, MD, Women’s Heart Clinic, Department of Gynecology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN, USA.
Virginia M. Miller, PhD, Departments of Surgery and Physiology and Biomedical Enginering and Office of Women’s Health, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester,MN,USA.

Women in the Western world may expect to spend a significant portion of their lives in postmenopause. After menopause, women are at increasing risk for several conditions associated with aging that may or may not be related to declining hormone levels. Caring for women seeking advice and treatment for menopausal concerns presents a golden opportunity to not only identify individuals at risk for early intervention but also to address prevention and screening strategies important to sustaining health.
Keywords: cancer, cardiovascular disease, menopause, osteoporosis, screening.