Strahlentherapie des alten patienten. Vertraglichkeit und ergebnisse der strahlentherapie alterer personen

Translated title of the contribution: Radiation therapy in old patients. Side effects and results of radiation therapy in old patients

Hans Geinitz, Frank Bodo Zimmermann, Michael Molls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: Despite a growing number of elderly patients receiving radiation therapy little is known about side effects and outcome of irradiation in this section of the population. Methods: In a review article epidemiologic data, aspects of radiation-biology as well as side effects and outcome of radiation therapy of elderly patients are discussed. Results: Cancer incidence rises with age (Figure 1) and is exceeding 3.5% for males older than 85 years. With a life expectancy of more than 4 years, curative therapy is indicated even at this age. Furthermore several retrospective studies indicate that local control and disease-specific survival after radiation therapy of elderly patients is comparable with that of younger persons (Tables 3 and 4). The exception contains elderly patients with Grade- III to IV gliomas or with rectal carcinoma who show a reduced survival which is perhaps caused by less aggressive combined treatment (tumor resection). Although some biological and molecular data indicate a rise in radiation sensitivity with growing age like the reduction of the capacity of some DNA- repair enzymes, there is no convincing evidence in animal studies or in retrospective clinical studies that radiation therapy is generally less well tolerated by older individuals (Tables 1 and 2). Some age-depending differences in organ toxicities are described in 3 large studies, which evaluate the data of patients who were enrolled in different EORTC-trials: Older patients suffer more of functional mucositis in case of radiation therapy to the head and neck, they have an increased weight loss and a higher frequency of late esophageal damage when irradiated in the thorax, and they show a higher prevalence of sexual dysfunction when treated with radiation therapy to the pelvis. On the other hand younger patients suffer more from acute toxicity like skin damage, nausea, and deterioration of the performance status during pelvic radiotherapy. When discussing the dose intensity of radiation therapy concomitant disease which leads to extensive atherosclerotic vessel damage should be kept in mind. Old patients should be monitored closely during therapy, since the loss of electrolytes or fluid is often not very well tolerated. Conclusion: The indication to radiation therapy of elderly cancer patients should take into account their performance status as well as the extent and the severity of comorbidity. Age per se is seldom a contraindication for radiation therapy. Regarding the available data in literature there is no indication for a dose reduction in radiation therapy only because of age, especially in the curative setting.

Translated title of the contributionRadiation therapy in old patients. Side effects and results of radiation therapy in old patients
Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)119-127
Number of pages9
JournalStrahlentherapie und Onkologie
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


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