Is Cancer in Nursing Home Residents More Likely to Go Undiagnosed?

A recent blog post at the excellent resource,, suggests that one consequence of general nursing home neglect is that many senior residents have undiagnosed cancer. Of course, as with patients of any age, early cancer detection is vital, because it is a progressive disease. The earlier that treatment is received the better chance that medical professionals have of curing it. Unfortunately, many have argued that cancer screenings in nursing homes have not received nearly as much attention as they need.

The author suggests that failure to consider the effect of not testing nursing home residents is simply another indication of poor general care at some of these homes. She reminds readers that over 2.1 million instances of elder abuse occur each and every year across the country-both inside and outside the nursing home. Cancer may go undetected because, for many seniors, reports of pain or abnormalities often go unnoticed. For example, a recent study examining 150,000 residents discovered that one in five patients that reported pain did not receive any treatment for the pain. This is problematic both for the fact that the senior was forced to wallow in a bad situation but also because failure to treat the pain may mean that more serious problems go undetected. The same study also took at a look at the care received by nursing home patients who it was already known did have cancer. Even there serious problems in caregiving were found. Chemotherapy and radiation were rarely administered to cancer patients in nursing homes.

Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers know that experts have put forth a range of explanations for these issues. A recent Bioethics Forum article suggested that part of the problem was that many nursing home caregivers already believe that their residents are on their deathbed-a belief that influences care. This attitude may be part of the reason why one in three nursing home residents die within their first year at a home. Another twenty to forty percent die in the second year.

In addition, financial costs are also involved in these decisions. Cancer screenings do have a cost, and in the current environment, most are looking at ways to cut back on healthcare spending. However, while everyone understand the needs to be cognizant of budgetary realities, it is important not to simply ignore cancer screenings in the very group that likely needs it most. More than 60% of all undiagnosed cancer is in individuals over 65 years old. It is unacceptable to tell this group of community members that there remaining decades must be sacrificed as a cost-cutting measure. At the end of the day, the Illinois injury lawyers at our firm believe that quality care should be available to all local community members. When cancer screenings should be given, they should be given. Those who are retired should not be denied this basic preventative step. Financial concerns may actually be misguided, because at times the costs spent on these seniors trying to treat a very advanced cancer are much higher than would otherwise had been the case if the cancer were caught much earlier.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

New Way to Support Nursing Home Laws

Pilot Program Seeks to Improve Troubled Nursing Homes in Illinois

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