New York, NEW YORK (February 4, 2023) – Alongside World Cancer Day on February 4, Global Coalition on Aging has released a new report on improving cancer care for older cancer patients, How to Better Support Older Adults and Their Families for Shared Decision-Making About Cancer Care. Shared Decision-Making (SDM) is the process by which medical providers, patients, and patient families come together to develop mutually agreed upon, informed plans for cancer care. SDM can help healthcare systems better attend to the diverse needs of older cancer patients. The new report was based on an international expert roundtable held by GCOA on October 12, 2023 that brought together healthcare providers, clinicians, patient representatives, and academic experts from Japan, the United States, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. The roundtable and report were both made possible through the support of Pfizer Japan Inc.
Aging is the single greatest risk factor for cancer, with approximately half of all cancer patients globally being 65 years or older. Japan is at the forefront of this challenge, with older adults accounting for three out of four cancer patients. A number of policy initiatives have been implemented in recent years to help improve care for this group, including the 4th Basic Plan for the Promotion of Cancer Control Programs of 2023, which included a call for the greater use of shared decision-making for all cancer cases.
“This roundtable was prompted by recent policy changes in Japan regarding cancer care. We sought to provide a platform for experts in the field to engage in a meaningful dialogue on the challenges and opportunities related to SDM in cancer care for older adults. The discussions were not only relevant to the evolving landscape of cancer care in Japan, but also addressed global concerns surrounding the aging population and cancer prevalence,” said Mike Hodin, CEO of the Global Coalition on Aging. “No two cancer patients are alike. SDM is about recognizing that, and making sure that cancer care plans are meeting each patient’s unique needs.”
GCOA’s new paper summarizes discussion and key insights from the roundtable, with the aim of showing how SDM can improve cancer care for elderly patients and their families. It makes five recommendations for expanding the practice of SDM further:
- Health systems should explore ways in which geriatric assessment and decision aids can be a) made more widely available, b) provide education and training to healthcare providers on how to use them, and c) support the uptake of such tools within the care system. Stakeholders in the private sector like Pfizer are working to develop decision aids and promote continuing educational opportunities for healthcare professionals. These activities help to improve patient care, and Governments should encourage and support them.
- Cross-training and specialization within the medical education system should be encouraged and supported. There is a noted insufficiency of geriatric oncologists, an important gap to fill in light of the increasingly older ages of patients diagnosed with cancer.
- Advance and incentivize the improved integration, as well as the further use of digitized medical records, which all together could provide a more seamless healthcare experience for both patients and providers.
- While it can be challenging to address a subjective notion such as ageism, implementation of tools like decision aids, geriatric assessment, and integration of care managers and patient advocates into medical interactions can help to support more objective decision-making. Increased efforts for cancer prevention and awareness could also help on this issue by bolstering trust among communities and their healthcare systems. Patients that already feel high trust in their healthcare providers may have an easier time in participating in shared decision making.
- Where not implemented, reconfigure reimbursement and healthcare systems to support the implementation of SDM and offer broader access to cancer treatments such that patients can choose the best options for themselves.
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About the Global Coalition on Aging
The Global Coalition on Aging represents a cross-section of global business including technology, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, home care, financial, transportation, and consumer sectors. We engage global institutions, policymakers, and the public to drive debate on, create, and promote innovative policies and actions to transform challenges associated with the aging of the global population into opportunities for social engagement, productivity and fiscal sustainability.