Baby Boomers' Next Obsession? Cancer

OK.  So we taught the world about free love and dropping acid and Woodstock.  The Baby Boomers greedily did and bought and changed just about everything in their path in the '60s and '70s.

And now we may be getting cancer in a big way, too.

A new study says, as people age, a diagnosis of cancer becomes more possible -- some would say probable.  And now the front end of our bragging, boasting, bossy bunch is reaching that age (though I beat them to it when I turned 50!).

"As 10,000 baby boomers reach 65 each day, the incidence of cancer is increasing, estimated to increase by 67% between 2010 and 2030," reports. Cancer is diagnosed at a higher rate in older adults, accounts for more survivors, and yet, results in more deaths than in younger patients.

“The increase in the number of older adults, the association of cancer with aging, the workforce shortage, and the financial stressors across the health care system and family networks all contribute to a crisis in cancer care that is most pronounced in the older population,” quotes three members of the Institute of Medication Committee on Improving the Quality of Cancer Care: Addressing the Challenges of an Aging Population in an editorial published In JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Of course, a diagnosis of cancer is devastating for anyone. But the practice of cancer care in this country for the older adults we are becoming leaves a lot of holes.  For one thing, the report notes, “Although the majority of patients with cancer and cancer survivors are older adults, historically they have been and continue to be underrepresented in all types of cancer trials." So?  Drugs are tested on a younger and fitter population who may have milder reactions and face less risk from them than older people, who may also have more than one condition.

The workforce may not be as flexible for older adults who have cancer than for younger ones.  The authors worry that the workplace is not ready for "an aging population and the complexity of care required by older adults with cancer," and suggests a commission be established that helps businesses learn to value "multidisciplinary teams (who can pick up the slack, I'm imagining) and geriatrics principles."

Geriatrics.  Ugh.  That word makes me shudder.  But the reality is that many of us are going to receive that dreaded diagnosis in the coming years (1 in 8 women with breast cancer, alone), and the healthcare
system -- and workforce -- just may not be ready for the numbers of Baby Boomers who will require care, and how they will fit, in while being treated.

As a cancer survivor, I can attest to the fact that there are days when you just can't raise your head off up your shoulders (this is probably just as true for young survivors).   I remember my three-year-old having a playdate with twins, toys all over the floor, and wondering how in the world I was going to be able to pick them all up, during my radiation treatment.  (Thankfully, the twins' mother came to my rescue.)

A little thing, but you'll do anything for normalcy, with this disease. Clearly, the workforce needs to start thinking about, and preparing for, this coming reality.  And guess what?  So do we.



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