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Older Patients have an Increased Risk of Complications from Major Cancer Surgery, Study Says

Update Date: Feb 18, 2016 11:45 AM EST

Older cancer patients are more likely to have complications from surgery than younger cancer patients are, a new study is reporting. These complications can increase medical costs and mortality risk.

For this study, the team examined data on 939,150 cancer patients who were from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. The researchers looked at two age groups, which were patients between 55 and 64, and patients aged 65 and older. Data were collected from 2009 to 2011.

The team found that patients who were older than 75 had the highest risk of complications or events, such as falls, broken bones and bed sores, after undergoing surgery for bladder, colorectal, ovarian, pancreatic and stomach cancers. Overall, 9.2 percent of the patients from the entire sample suffered from at least one kind of post-surgery event or complication.

"Even now, these events affect approximately one in 10 patients over the age of 54 undergoing cancer surgery in the United States," researcher Dr. Hung-Jul Tan, from UCLA, said in a press release. "With even higher rates observed among the very old, patients 75 and older -- the fastest-growing segment of the population -- geriatric events during cancer-related surgery are likely to become even more prevalent."

The researchers concluded that older cancer patients should discuss the risks involved after undergoing surgery. Oftentimes, people are too focused on cancer outcomes instead of quality of life. By addressing the potential non-cancer related problems that could arise after surgery, patients can received better care and assistance.

"Now that the prevalence of such events is known, treatment approaches that keep these age-related health concerns in mind may be better applied in the future to better assist these patients," Tan said.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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