Brain tumors in the elderly: recent trends in a Minnesota cohort study

J K Lowry, J J Snyder, P W Lowry
Archives of Neurology 1998, 55 (7): 922-8

OBJECTIVE: To compare the clinical presentation, time elapsed to diagnosis, and survival of elderly patients (> or = 65 years) with that in younger patients with malignant primary brain tumors.

DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.

SETTING: Four hospitals in Minneapolis, Minn.

PATIENTS: Seven hundred fourteen patients diagnosed as having and treated for primary malignant brain tumors between 1980 and 1995; 230 (32%) were 65 years or older.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The type and duration of the chief presenting symptom, the time elapsed to diagnosis, the treatment modalities used, and patient survival were analyzed.

RESULTS: Time elapsed from onset of symptom to diagnosis was not longer for elderly patients than younger ones, with the exception of patients aged 18 to 24 years, who had a significantly longer delay in diagnosis (P = .004). Elderly patients were significantly less likely to present with headache or seizure (P<.001), and more likely to present with confusion, aphasia, or memory loss (for each, P<.001). With the single exception of confusion, the duration of all other presenting symptoms was not significantly longer for patients 65 years and older compared with younger patients. Survival is significantly reduced in older patients, and appears to worsen significantly in patients 45 years and older (P<.001). A significantly higher proportion of patients 65 years and older with glioblastoma multiforme received no treatment (P = .004) if diagnosed after 1990.

CONCLUSIONS: Elderly patients (> or = 65 years) with malignant brain tumors are diagnosed as promptly as younger patients, although they have a markedly different constellation of symptoms. Since diagnosis of brain tumors continues to improve in the elderly, it may be more difficult to ascribe the steady increase in incidence to artifactual factors.

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