Decision making for the treatment of cancer in older people across the UK

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that under-treatment of older patients in the UK may be contributing to poor outcomes. Surgery contributes to around half of cases where cancer is cured. However, data from the National Cancer Intelligence Network has shown that older patients in England are significantly less likely to receive surgery for their cancer than younger patients – this appears to be a problem for many types of cancer but is particularly acute for breast, kidney and ovarian cancers.

The study will generate evidence that explores care pathways for older people with cancer in greater depth, across primary and secondary care. We seek to map barriers to cancer treatment for older people and discover best practice that can overcome these challenges and be linked to better treatment outcomes for older people. Our approach develops a close and detailed understanding of how assessment practices are carried out across the UK (including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), as well as thinking more broadly about why there may be variation in practice, for example possible governance and workforce issues.

A group of older people affected by cancer assist in the research design and ongoing analysis of findings. Incorporating the service user perspective into the analysis provides an important counter perspective to the accounts of health care professionals. Research will be used to understand what assessments are being undertaken and how they improve access to treatment for older people.


February - September 2016


Kerry Allen, Hilary Brown, Karen Newbigging. In collaboration with ICF Jo Ellins.


Cancer Research UK