Populations are ageing worldwide and the incidence of cancer in older adults is increasing significantly. Cary Adams of UICC and Bill Sibold of Sanofi examine the need to prepare adequately for the reality of more older people living with cancer to avoid further overwhelming health systems.
People around the world are living longer than ever before and contributing in meaningful ways to society as they age. The incidence of cancer for those over the age of 65 is also increasing around the world at an alarming pace, and it’s placing a significant burden on the individuals impacted, their loved ones, communities and healthcare systems worldwide. The lack of preparation for the reality of more older people living with cancer can have considerable impact on health systems that are already stretched beyond their limits.
This year’s World Cancer Day theme of “Close the Care Gap” inspires us to think about how we can identify solutions that will transcend the pace of cancer incidence in the ageing population and have the potential to reverberate across generations with their impact.
To better understand the care gap for older people living with cancer and to validate potential solutions, Sanofi commissioned a study supported by a steering committee of global oncology organisations, including UICC, International Society of Geriatric Oncology (SIOG), Global Coalition on Ageing (GCOA) and China Anti-Cancer Association (CACA), with KPMG. The study found that the societal and economic burden of ageing and cancer will significantly increase worldwide in the next two decades – by approximately 80% – and will have a staggering impact not only on those with cancer over the age of 65, but also on the healthcare providers and loved ones who care for those with cancer.
The study looked at the estimated economic and societal impact if no action is taken by 2040 to address the implications of cancer and ageing, with a specific focus on the US, China, the UK and four countries in the European Union (Germany, France, Italy, Spain). It also outlined some of the most meaningful ways to address cancer and ageing:
Work is already underway to implement some of the solutions identified in the study. UICC is working with its member organisations around the world to help prepare healthcare systems by implementing a range of priority actions identified at the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit in 2019. In collaboration with the global cancer community of patients, caregivers, advocates and healthcare providers, Sanofi’s When Cancer Grows Old initiative aims to raise awareness of the prevalence of cancer in the ageing population and support programs that help people with cancer grow older.
But much is left to be accomplished and it will take efforts by all of us to make progress. As we and our loved ones grow older, it’s imperative that policies adapt and practices evolve to better support their unique needs. Today, ask yourself: What is my role in advocating for those who are older with cancer? What action can I take to become educated on the challenges? How can I change policies and impact practices that are detrimental to diagnosing, treating and caring for older adults with cancer?
Everyone’s health matters, no matter their age. By evolving our practices, policies and resources to be inclusive of the ageing population, we can close the gap in helping those who may be diagnosed with cancer in the future have better outcomes.