October 1, 2005
Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States and will kill more than 50,000 people this year. A major risk factor for colon cancer is age, with more than 90% of cases occurring in people 50 years and older. Unfortunately, clinical evidence suggests that colon cancer patients 65 and older are not always getting the best disease management. However, a recent survey commissioned by the Alliance for Aging Research shows that caregivers play an important role in disease management and can have a major positive impact on disease outcomes.
The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, interviewed oncologists on the importance of caregivers for elderly colon cancer patients. 77% of physicians interviewed agree that colon cancer patients 65 and older experience better disease outcomes when a caregiver is involved because of better communication. 81% also said that they depend on caregivers at least somewhat, and some a great deal, to act as an intermediary between them and the elderly patients. 100% feel the caregiver is part of a team involved in the patient's disease management. The physicians felt that the primary roles of the caregivers are to provide emotional support, participate in doctor's visits and in disease management decisions, and to provide transportation to and from doctor's appointments. Unfortunately, only around 3 out of 5 colon cancer patients 65 and older have the support of a caregiver.
Over 100 oncologists were interviewed, all of whom practice in the United States, treat at least 10 colorectal cancer patients per month, and have been practicing between 3 and 30 years. The survey included questions on how many patients have caregivers, who those caregivers are, their importance in disease management, their primary roles, and their participation in communication and treatment options.