• Users Online: 467
  • Print this page
  • Email this page

Table of Contents
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 188-189

Old is always not gold in geriatric oncology assessment

Department of Medical Oncology, Cancer Institute (WIA), Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission24-Jan-2021
Date of Decision05-Feb-2021
Date of Acceptance11-Feb-2021
Date of Web Publication26-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Venkatraman Radhakrishnan
Professor, Department of Medical Oncology, Cancer Institute (WIA), Adyar, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/crst.crst_17_21

Get Permissions

How to cite this article:
Radhakrishnan V. Old is always not gold in geriatric oncology assessment. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2021;4:188-9

How to cite this URL:
Radhakrishnan V. Old is always not gold in geriatric oncology assessment. Cancer Res Stat Treat [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 May 5];4:188-9. Available from: https://www.crstonline.com/text.asp?2021/4/1/188/312065

Noronha et al. in their review have highlighted the problems of using geriatric assessment scales developed in the high-income countries (HICs) for patients with cancer in the low- and middle-income countries like India.[1] Even though the geriatric assessment tools developed in HICs are gold standards in these countries, they cannot be extrapolated to the Indian scenario.[2]

A unique problem that the oncologists face in the clinics, in addition to the social, cultural, and economic issues raised by Noronha et al., is the difference between the chronological age and biological age of the patients.[1] Many patients are chronologically in their late 40s and 50s, but biologically appear to be in their 60s or 70s. Should these patients be excluded from the geriatric assessment because they do not meet the cutoff age of 60 years? It is not uncommon to see patients who do not know their date of birth and therefore their age. How should we account for these patients in our assessment? It has been observed that women with biological age (quantified using DNA methylation) greater than their chronological age have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.[3] Biological aging is characterized by epigenetic alterations and mitochondrial dysfunction.[4] Clinically, the biological age of an individual is estimated by assessing frailty, which is a part of many geriatric assessment scales. It would be interesting to see if a lab-based molecular assessment of frailty is more accurate than a clinical assessment.[4]

A comprehensive geriatric assessment takes approximately an hour,[5] and most cancer centers in India can only offer patient consults for <10 min per patient due to the large patient numbers. Therefore, such assessments might not be feasible in the Indian clinics. Hence, we need short and locally adapted screening geriatric questionnaires that can be administered in 5 min and a more detailed assessment for patients identified as being at high risk in the screening questionnaire. The detailed assessment should also not exceed 30 min, as anything longer than this would make it less attractive for use in clinical practice. A study from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, recently tried to bridge this gap.[6]

There is a paucity of data from India on the outcomes in geriatric oncology. When we assessed our cohort of older patients with lymphoma, we observed that most of the clinical decisions regarding the choice of chemotherapy regimens and dose adjustments were based on the subjective assessments of the physician rather than an objective geriatric assessment.[7] With subjective assessments, there is a risk of either undertreating or overtreating a patient.

Another challenge that I faced in my clinical practice is that older patients are not given the autonomy to make decisions regarding their treatment.[8] Many families insist that the diagnosis of cancer should not be shared with their patients,[9] as they feel that the knowledge about their diagnosis may cause so much trauma as to kill the patient's spirit. The questions asked to the patients are also mostly answered by the caregivers. In such situations, it becomes challenging to perform a geriatric assessment as the patient is not aware of the diagnosis and the response to the questions in the assessment is given by the caregiver.

Therefore, the time is ripe to design a local geriatric assessment tool for older Indian patients with cancer.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Noronha V, Ramaswamy A, Banavali S, Gattani S, Prabhash K. Ethnocultural inequity in the geriatric assessment. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3:808-13.  Back to cited text no. 1
  [Full text]  
Soto-Perez-de-Celis E. Global geriatric oncology: One size does not fit all. J Geriatr Oncol 2019;10:199-201.  Back to cited text no. 2
Kresovich JK, Xu Z, O'Brien KM, Weinberg CR, Sandler DP, Taylor JA. Methylation-based biological age and breast cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst 2019;111:1051-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
Hägg S, Jylhävä J. Should we invest in biological age predictors to treat colorectal cancer in older adults? Eur J Surg Oncol 2020;46:316-20.  Back to cited text no. 4
Noronha V, Ramaswamy A, Dhekle R, Talreja V, Gota V, Gawit K, et al. Initial experience of a geriatric oncology clinic in a tertiary cancer center in India. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3:208-17.  Back to cited text no. 5
  [Full text]  
Banerjee J, Satapathy S, Upadhyay AD, Dwivedi SN, Chatterjee P, Kumar L, et al. A short geriatric assessment tool for the older person with cancer in India – Development and sychometric validation. J Geriatr Oncol 2019;10:222-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
Mishra S, Radhakrishnan V, Ganesan P, Rajendranath R, Rajaraman S, Ganesan TS, et al. Predictors of chemotherapy related toxicities in elderly lymphoma patients: Experience from a tertiary cancer centre. Indian J Hematol Blood Transfus 2017;33:470-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
Parikh PM, Chaitanya K, Boppana M, Kumar MS, Shankar K. Geriatric oncology landscape in India – Current scenario and future projections. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3:296-9.  Back to cited text no. 8
  [Full text]  
Chandrasekharan A. A tale of two patients. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3:1-2.  Back to cited text no. 9
  [Full text]  


    Similar in PUBMED
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded17    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal