Aging is a heterogeneous process. Most newly diagnosed cancers occur in older adults, and it is important to understand a patient’s underlying health status when making treatment decisions. A geriatric assessment provides a detailed evaluation of medical, psychosocial, and functional problems in older patients with cancer.  In this study we describe the utility of geriatric assessment by using an illustrative case and provide a practical approach to geriatric assessment in oncology.

Older adults are the fastest-growing segment of the population. According to the International Aging Reports, adults aged 65 years or older comprised 8.5% of the total population in 2015, but this is projected to increase to 12% in 2030 and to 16.7% in 2050.  More than 60% of patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer are age 65 years or older, which makes this the most common population seen in an oncology practice. In addition, a recent study has shown that, in 51.2% of patients, a geriatric assessment can identify abnormalities that are not otherwise detected during regular consultation, including poor physical functioning (40.1%), poor nutritional status (37.6%), falls (30.5%), depression (27.2%), and cognitive impairment.

In summary, understanding the health status of an older adult is just as important as understanding the underlying tumor biology. A geriatric assessment can identify areas of vulnerability, predict survival and toxicity, assist in clinical treatment decisions, and guide interventions in routine oncology practice.