Elderly 'denied chemotherapy'

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The Independent Online

Medical Editor

Elderly patients with lung cancer are being denied chemotherapy treatment - even though they may do better than younger patients, cancer experts claim.

Dr Ian Smith, head of the lung unit at the Royal Marsden Hospital, and his colleagues have found that patients over 70 who received chemotherapy for lung cancer did slightly better than the younger patients.

The cancers were inoperable and the treatment was "palliative", designed to keep the tumours under control. He asks in a letter to The Lancet today whether there is any sound data for denying these elderly patients treatment. Dr Smith, who is also chairman of the National Association of Cancer Physicians, said yesterday: "Lung cancer is particularly a disease of the elderly and affects almost 20,000 people over the age of 65 each year. There is no longer any justification for denying these people chemotherapy treatment ..."