How Meds for Cancer Can Negatively Affect Older Patients

Unfortunately, many older cancer patients experience side effects from prescribed medications, including cancer meds. This is largely because older patients are commonly prescribed the same medication dosage as younger adults. However, the body reacts differently to medications in older age than in younger age, often making high medication doses dangerous for older patients. 

Side Effects from Cancer Meds in Older Patients

Older adults tend to take more medications than older adults, given that they’re more likely to have chronic conditions and other medical concerns. When older patients are taking more than one prescription medication, the risk of adverse effects from the drugs increases.

Heightened Risk of Side Effects as the Body Ages

Certain effects of aging on the body make older patients more likely to experience complications from medications. For one, the kidneys’ ability to get rid of medications through urine lowers with age, as does the liver’s capacity to metabolize medications. This means that drugs are less effectively removed from the body in older adults, raising the probability of complications. 

Another effect of aging that impacts how the older patients react to medications is the volume of water in the body. Water in the body decreases with age. This means that for medications that dissolve in water, the concentration will be higher in the body. Additionally, fat tissue in the body increases with age. This means that, with a higher volume of fat tissue to store them, medications that dissolve in fat tend to build up more in older patients. 

Lower, Safer Doses for Older Patients

With the risk of complications from medications in mind, lower drug doses are safer for older adults. Specifically, to preserve their health and wellness, older adults generally need a lower dose of medication than younger adults. This can provide the benefit of the drug without putting the patient at risk of adverse effects.