Navigating the Geriatric Cancer Patient

Posted by Cam McClellan Teems

April 20, 2016 at 10:31 AM


It is well known that cancer disproportionately affects people over 65. In fact, the median age for diagnosis of U.S patients is over 70s. Therefore, navigators and the Care Team must have a working knowledge of frailty, multimorbidity, and geriatric syndromes, as well as self-awareness of how they are interacting with this unique pool of patients. According to this report from ONA, oncology navigators need "geriatric competence to provide optimal cancer care for patients over 65.”

This topic was the focus of a presentation by Sarah H. Kagan, PhD, RN, (@SarahHKagan) of the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital and the School of Nursing University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia at the 2nd Annual Oncology Nurse Advisor Navigation Summit.  She cited the need for "age-friendly" communication, both personal and material-based. Specifically, navigators should "avoid assumptions" that the patient understands a complex diagnosis like cancer as they cultivate relationships and trusting bonds with patients. Among the other tips for geriatric oncology patients:

  • Patients should be given time to process the information provided to them, with any information they may not have understood or missed carefully repeated.
  • Repeated follow-ups may be necessary to confirm that there is understanding of treatment plans and side effect risk
  • Secondary care givers should be copied on communications and encouraged to participate in conversations.

Topics: Cancer Management, Navigation & Care Coordination, Geriatrics

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