AGEISM in the NHS is stopping some older cancer patients getting the best treatments, a charity has warned.

Nearly half of specialist cancer medics believe that age discrimination by health professionals is resulting in older cancer patients not getting the best treatment, a poll by Macmillan Cancer Support suggests.

And 45% of 155 GPs, oncologists and specialist cancer nurses surveyed said they have dealt with a cancer patient who has been refused treatment on the grounds that they were too old.

The charity is now raising public awareness of the issue and has been strongly backed by Sir Patrick Stewart.

The 72-year-old Mirfield-born actor said: “I am a passionate believer in the equality of individuals and fairness in our society so I was shocked and saddened to learn from Macmillan Cancer Support that many older people are not getting the right cancer care because it is assumed they can’t cope with treatment because their age.

“Growing evidence shows that age remains a dominant factor when treatment decisions are made and that many older people who could benefit from treatment, like surgery or radiotherapy, simply aren’t getting it. I find it hard to believe that this is happening in this day and age.

“I am sure health professionals are not being intentionally ageist, but it is clear that assessments of older people are not adequately measuring their fitness for treatment.

“I consider myself to be a pretty fit 72-year-old and would hope should I be diagnosed with cancer I would be accurately assessed and given the best chance of a longer, productive life of work and leisure as a result.”

People can pledge their support for Macmillan’s Age Old Excuse campaign at the website

A new booklet, Cancer and Older People, which includes tips on how to ensure older people receive the best treatment for them is also available at or by calling 0808 808 00 00.

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