“Geriatric assessment is an approach that clinicians use to evaluate their elderly patients’ overall health status and to help them choose treatment appropriate to their age and condition. The assessment includes questionnaires and tests to gauge the patients’ physical, mental and functional capacity, taking into account their social lives, daily activities and goals.
The tool can play an important role in cancer care, according to clinicians who work with the elderly. It can be tricky to predict who will be cured, who will relapse and who will die from cancer treatment. Geriatric assessments can help physicians better estimate who will likely develop chemotherapy toxicities and other serious potential complications of cancer treatment, including death.
Geriatric assessment includes an evaluation by a physical therapist, a psychological assessment, a cognitive exam and a complete physical and medical history. The doctor takes all these factors into account and tallies a score for their patient to help guide their decision-making about the patient’s treatment.
Although the geriatric assessment is not 100% accurate, “it’s better than the clinician eyeball test,” says Supriya Gupta Mohile, a geriatric oncologist and professor of medicine at the University of Rochester. “If I didn’t do a geriatric assessment and just looked at a patient I wouldn’t have the same information,” she says.