Ravindran Kanesvaran, Doctor, Singapore
Beyond caregivers and patients, there is a global network of researchers looking at how new technology and treatments can help improve the outlook of the global cancer community. Dr. Ravindran Kanesvaran, an oncologist, has spent his career investigating how cancer impacts people, especially older patients, and believes that caring for ageing cancer patients will require the medical community to check their own biases.
“When you look at cancer as a whole, it is a disease of the ageing,” says Dr. Ravindran Kanesvaran, a medical oncologist based at the National Cancer Center of Singapore and president of the International Society of Geriatric Oncology (SIOG). The average age for cancer diagnosis worldwide is 65 years old, which means cancer and other health issues that accompany ageing intersect regularly.
Dr. Kanesvaran’s work with SIOG focuses on bringing comprehensive, effective care to older cancer patients around the globe. Dr. Kanesvaran observes that often, older patients aren’t given the same level of care that younger patients are, due to a common issue: Ageism. “To a great extent, treatment is denied to them because of age” he says. “Ageism is one of the challenges and it impacts the quality of care, which in turn affects outcomes like survival.”
Fighting against ageism in the healthcare system means changing the perception of older patients as a homogeneous group. “We can’t categorize them by age,” he says. Instead, Dr. Kanesvaran advocates for a more personalized level of care, a previously time-intensive practice that is fast becoming a viable option because of advances in technology like genome sequencing and sophisticated data analysis. “There are centers using Big Data to develop tools that make it easier for healthcare practitioners to calculate parameters like toxicity of certain treatments,” Dr. Kanesvaran says.
These technologies are expected to allow for truly personalized care, especially for the older patients who may have conditions that make traditional courses of care impractical. Improved screening techniques can help detect cancer earlier for ageing patients as well, an advance that could help them start treatment earlier. “The hope is that a patient will have their blood taken and you can do analysis and detect predisposition to cancer before it develops,” Dr. Kanesvaran says. “And when you do that, you’re going to be able to help a lot more patients.”
A full picture of cancer includes the perspectives of patients, caregivers, and doctors, which is why Midori, Rogério, Patrizia, Dr. Gonen and Dr. Kanesvaran are such vital components of how the world cares for its cancer patients. Cancer care is transforming one country at a time, and these global outlooks can provide a guide for what needs to change and what transformations we can expect. Cancer patients are growing older and continuing innovation and evolution of care are important to ensure their needs are being met.