Chemotherapy for elderly patients: a personal experience
- Aust Prescr 2000;23:82-3
- 1 April 2000
- DOI: 10.18773/austprescr.2000.091
'Snow' Partridge was 81 years old when he developed a small cell carcinoma of unknown primary. He was treated with six cycles of cisplatin and etoposide.
AP: How did you find out you had cancer?
SP: I noticed a small lump at the front of my neck. I did not think much about it, but about a month later I mentioned it to my general practitioner when I consulted her about another problem. My doctor sent me for a biopsy. I was told that the biopsy was 'positive' and I was referred to a surgeon. The surgeon recommended that I have the lump removed so I had an operation. After the operation I was referred to an oncologist. I had to have scans of my whole body.
AP: How did you feel when you were told you had cancer?
SP: I do not know what kind of cancer I had. I knew that cancer was serious so I was slightly alarmed by the diagnosis.
AP: Were you told what choices you had for treating your cancer?
SP: I was not given a choice of treatment. The oncologist advised me to have chemotherapy to 'clear up any nasties'. I decided to take the oncologist's advice.
AP: Before you had your treatment, what did you think it would be like?
SP: I knew other people who had been given chemotherapy. They had felt crook all the time and had problems with vomiting. I knew it would not be pleasant, however I coped well with chemotherapy. I did not know what I was treated with, but my treatment was for three days every three weeks. This was repeated six times. I had blood tests before each treatment and I had to stay in hospital for two nights each time.
AP: What adverse effects did you have?
SP: The doctors and nurses were very good - they told me what side effects to expect and what I could do about them. I only vomited twice, but all my hair fell out after the second treatment. I think I coped well. Apart from a couple of days when I overdid things, I did not feel too unwell.
AP: Were you relieved when the treatment was completed?
SP: I hoped the treatment was curing the cancer but I was pleased when the chemotherapy was over. I felt more lively and my hair grew back. It is now nearly two years since I finished treatment. I am still playing golf and a few sets of tennis.
AP: Would you make the same choice if you had to make the decision about being treated again?
SP: I would have chemotherapy again if the doctors advised it.
AP: Do you have any advice to help elderly people with cancer decide about having or continuing treatment?
SP: It would be a bit rough to say that old people with cancer should not be treated. I think if you are reasonably fit you should go for the treatment. If you are advised to have chemotherapy, think positively and go for it.