The purpose of this study was to assess whether: (i) radiotherapy (RT) utilization varies with age in Ontario cancer patients; (ii) age-associated differences in the use of RT (if they exist) vary with cancer site and treatment intent; (iii) the age-associated variation in RT utilization is comparable to the decline in functional status in the general population; and (iv) the variation with age is due to differences in referral to a cancer center or to subsequent decisions.
Details for several cancer sites diagnosed between 1984-1994 were obtained from the Ontario Cancer Registry (OCR). RT records from all treatment centers were linked to the OCR database. Information about the functional status of the Canadian population was obtained from the 1994 National Population Health Survey conducted by Statistics Canada.
The rate of RT use declined with age, particularly for adjuvant and palliative indications. The relative decline in RT with age exceeded the relative decline in functional status with age in the general population. Most of the decline in RT use was related to a decline in referral to cancer centers.
The referral for, and use of, palliative and adjuvant RT decreases more with age than can be explained by age-associated decline in functional status observed in the general population.