Jimmy Carter’s cancer diagnosis sparks conversation
Former President Jimmy Carter recently announced that he has been diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer that is spreading throughout his body.
“Recent liver surgery revealed that I have cancer that now is in other parts of my body,” Carter said in a statement to the press. “I will be rearranging my schedule as necessary so I can undergo treatment.”
Although the type of cancer hasn’t been revealed, pancreatic cancer has taken the life of his father, brother and two sisters.
Pancreatic cancer is an extremely lethal cancer, says Dr. John Brems, director of the Center for Advanced Liver and Pancreatic Care at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. The American Cancer Society estimates 48,960 new cases each year.
“Pancreatic cancer will be the second leading cause of cancer mortality behind lung cancer by 2030,” says Dr. Brems. “By the time it’s diagnosed, the cancer has most likely spread to the organs. Therefore, treatment is limited.”
At 90 years old, Carter’s diagnosis of cancer at a late age has put treatment options in the spotlight for the elderly.
“Surgery is always an option for patients who are physiologically capable of being able to handle the stress of surgery,” Dr. Brems says. “I’ve treated patients who are 80 and 90 years old, but we have to individualize treatment based on their physiological age, not their chronological age.”
At the annual meeting for the American Society of Clinical Oncology that was held last week, members urged federal agencies and cancer research groups to broaden clinical trials to include older adults with cancer.
“Older people living with cancer often have different experiences and outcomes in their treatment than younger cancer patients,” said ASCO President Julie M. Vose at the presentation. “As we age, for example, the risk of adverse reactions from treatment significantly increases. Older adults must be involved in clinical trials so we can learn the best way to treat older cancer patients resulting in improved outcomes and manageable toxicity.”
This comes at a time when the Administration on Aging predicts that there will be 72.1 million older adults by 2030, more than twice the number than in 2000.
According to the ACS, 28 percent of new cancer cases are diagnosed in people over 75 years old.
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