Geriatric care is undoubtedly complex. A cancer diagnosis in itself creates significant concerns, irrespective of age, for the patient, and these concerns may be compounded by stresses related to moving into later life. Despite the scarce literature on geriatric oncology, the numerous challenges are acknowledged. Substantial evidence is offered on the benefits to the patient as well as the treating institution (cost off-sets, for example) on the benefits of psychosocial care. However, psychosocial care does not necessarily begin only at the cancer centre. Screening for the sixth vital sign, emotional distress, should begin at the primary care physician’s office. This not only benefits the primary care practice but also enables the tertiary referral centre to streamline resources to the specific needs of the patient, thereby ultimately improving the patient experience across the disease trajectory.
Key words: geriatric, chronic disease, emotional distress, screening, sixth vital sign.
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.
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