Ageing and your health

Many older people have one or more health conditions.

When a person has more than one significant health condition at the same time, for example a heart condition and cancer, these are sometimes called co-morbidities or co-existing conditions.

Conditions that tend to be more common and chronic (that is, long lasting) in older people include: heart conditions, diabetes, lung and kidney disease and dementia.

Australia’s Health report 2016 (PDF, 655KB) found that 60% of people over the age of 65 years have two or more co-existing illnesses.

Risks associated with cancer treatments

When a person has co-morbidities or co-existing illnesses, it is important that the cancer team are aware of this to reduce the risk of:

  • Reactions between cancer drugs and other medications
  • Cancer or its treatment affecting a chronic health condition. This may make it harder to finish cancer treatment as planned and can complicate long-term management of a chronic health condition. (For example, cancer and diabetes. Steroids are commonly used as part of cancer treatment but they can impact the management of diabetes by affecting blood-sugar levels)
  • Long standing health problems having an impact on physical and emotional recovery time during and after cancer treatment.

Making sure that your cancer team is aware of anything that may complicate your ability to cope with or recover from treatment will give the best opportunity to get you through your treatment as well as possible.

The cancer team needs information about your general health, any co existing health conditions and how they are being managed, to reduce the risks of treatment side-effects. This will help you get through your treatment as well as possible.

The next topic explains all about getting a Health check before cancer treatment