Geriatric Oncology Care Services

Comprehensive Geriatric Assessments: A Foundation for Care Management for Older Adults

James Wallace and patient

Advanced age alone is not a sufficient reason to prevent a person from receiving effective cancer care that may extend one’s life. Yet it's crucial to identify, preferably in advance, possible problems that may affect care outcomes in older patients so that steps can be taken to reduce risks and better prepare for treatment. At the University of Chicago Specialized Oncology Care & Research in the Elderly (SOCARE) clinic, our approach to care planning includes comprehensive geriatric assessments that evaluate the following factors:

  • Overall health of the patient
  • The presence of co-existing diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease
  • Functional ability to perform tasks of daily living, such as medication management, bathing, and dressing
  • Frailty and physical weakness, as well as difficulties with walking or balance
  • Behavioral or mood concerns, including anxiety and depression
  • Memory impairment
  • Nutritional needs
  • Medication review to avoid dangerous interactions
  • Social and family support assessment to assist during and after cancer treatment

Tailoring Care for Older Cancer Patients

SOCARE physicians consult with the patient's oncologists and use results from the comprehensive geriatric assessment to develop individualized care recommendations. At the SOCARE clinic, we aim to:

  • Establish care goals with patients, family members, and physicians. The patient's quality of life and wishes for care are the priority when setting treatment goals.
  • Identify instances where special care considerations are required to reduce the risk for complications. Examples include anticipating when patients may be more vulnerable to side effects from treatment.
  • Assist patients and families with navigating the cancer care process. An advanced practice nurse and other SOCARE staff can help coordinate appointments with cancer specialists and make sure patients and family members are informed about what to expect during treatment.
  • Coordinate resources that address the overall care needs of the patient, including pain and other symptom management, home care assistance or rehabilitation care, and psychosocial support.
  • Arrange for palliative care or hospice care, if appropriate, and answer questions and ease concerns related to high quality end-of-life care.
William Dale, resident, patient

Serving as Patient Advocates

Ultimately, we serve as a trusted resource to help older patients achieve their care goals and maintain the highest quality of life. When appropriate, this means advocating for older patients to receive the full spectrum of cancer treatments--including aggressive or experimental treatments. Alternatively, we assist patients and families who wish to minimize care measures at the end of life.

Gus Snare At 90, Gus Snare became the oldest patient ever to undergo the Whipple procedure at the University of Chicago. General surgeons and SOCARE physicians collaborated to determine if Snare was a good candidate for this life-saving treatment to treat bile duct cancer. » Read Snare’s story

Conducting Research to Improve Cancer Care for All Seniors

Research is a core part of our mission to improve cancer care for all older adults. SOCARE-based research benefits older patients--from helping to define when older pancreatic cancer patients are candidates for potentially curative surgery, to studying when to initiate therapy for rising PSA levels in men with recurrent prostate cancer. The National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Aging, the American Cancer Society, and other respected organizations support SOCARE research. Our geriatric oncology leaders actively collaborate with other experts from throughout the United States to advance the field and share research that promises to benefit all seniors with cancer.

Request An Appointment with a SOCARE Physician

To request an appointment with a SOCARE physician or for more information about our geriatric oncology services, please call 1-855-702-8222 or send an e-mail message to SOCARE clinic director, William Dale, MD, PhD, at wdale@medicine.bsd.uchicago.edu. The SOCARE clinic is held Friday mornings and is located in the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine, area 6C. » Directions to the Medical Center

Patients need not receive cancer care at the University of Chicago medical center to see a SOCARE physician. We welcome the opportunity to provide second opinions on care plans for any senior diagnosed with cancer.

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