COTA Victoria has a strong interest in the health of Victorians over 50 and recognises cancer as one of the biggest health concerns among older people. The new Victorian Cancer Plan 2024-2028 is a key opportunity to ensure optimal outcomes and positive health experiences for older Victorians. The growing predominance of older people in cancer diagnosis and prevalence means that the Cancer Plan will not succeed unless it explicitly addresses older people as a key target group. We have compiled a brief data profile of cancer and older Victorians to underpin our input.
As the Victorian population ages, as projected over coming years, and cancer survival rates continue to improve, we will inevitably see greater numbers of older people living with cancer. On the positive side, we will also see many more older people remaining cancer-free as a result of exposure to prevention and early detection efforts at earlier stages of their lives. This prevention effort – supported by age specific information and awareness efforts – needs to be applied and adapted to older Victorians to ensure that we realise the potential to avoid the risk of cancer mortality and morbidity further and further into old age.
We are pleased to see the consultation paper acknowledge the need for a life course approach and potential new activities targeted to older people, although no detail is yet provided on what this might involve. Given that cancer is so predominantly a condition of older age, we are concerned that the paper does not say more on the need to respond to older people’s life situations, intersecting health issues and particular challenges they face in accessing cancer-related services. We would like to see the Cancer Plan respond to findings of recent research about older people’s healthcare expectations1 and implemented in tandem with an Older Victorians Health and Wellbeing Strategy and Action Plan, as proposed by COTA Victoria.