Geriatric Oncology Division
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Leading our Division of Geriatric Oncology as its chief is Richard J. Rosenbluth, M.D., a hematologist/oncologist who has been on the medical staff of The Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center for 30 years and is a clinical professor of medicine at New York University Medical Center.
Dr. Rosenbluth is joined by Knight Steele, M.D., chief of the Division of Geriatrics at the medical center; and José Contreras, M.D., chief of The Cancer Center’s Division of Pain and Supportive Services. Together, they coordinate services to provide the best early detection, treatment, and palliative care possible for older persons with cancer.
Cancer in Older Persons
The risk of developing cancer increases with age. At the Geriatric Oncology Program, cancer care experts treat patients with a multidisciplinary approach that considers all of the barriers that older patients can face when they try to obtain optimal care.
According to our chief of the Division of Geriatric Oncology, Richard J. Rosenbluth, M.D., patients over age 75 who are fit tend to do as well as younger patients with standard cancer care treatment. But those who are vulnerable and frail pose special challenges. The Geriatric Oncology Program addresses such issues as:
- Decreased mobility
- Other medical conditions that the patient has that might impact treatment and recovery
- Financial concerns
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Transportation problems
- Multiple prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Irregular or lack of preventive screenings
- Symptoms that older adults ignore or don’t recognize
- Lack of a support system
Centralized Cancer Care
Very often, one of the greatest barriers to obtaining optimal cancer care for older patients is the difficulty in traveling to various doctors’ offices and facilities for diagnostic and treatment services. The Cancer Center’s Geriatric Oncology Program was designed to provide a multitude of services within one centralized location: the Cancer Center. Equipment and furnishings promote comfort but also address limited mobility and other assistive needs of older persons. Multi-lingual staff are available to explain the program and gather medical and social histories from patients.
All new patients to the Geriatric Oncology Program undergo an extensive assessment using an objective Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment tool to help identify problems related to the cancer as well as other issues related to aging. The Geriatric Oncology Program offers centralized cancer care that:
- Designs a personalized and therapeutic treatment plan for each patient
- Recognizes other medical conditions the patient may not be aware of
- Maximizes social support
- Prevents dangerous drug interactions
- Encourages participation in clinical trials, if appropriate
- Offers nutrition counseling
- Meets the patient’s need for physical, occupational, and speech therapies
- Addresses socioeconomic and family issues that can affect the patient’s health care
Because mature adults with cancer face issues that younger patients don’t, our geriatric oncology team very carefully develops treatment plans and adjusts dosages of cancer medications, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy that might be fine for younger persons but can be toxic to older persons. Alternative medications or therapies are carefully considered and evaluated. For some older patients, no treatment at all may be the best solution. Every treatment plan is reviewed by the geriatric oncology team of physicians, nurses, social workers, dietitians, rehabilitative therapists, pharmacists, and pastoral care representatives.
At every visit, the patient is assigned a guide, who oversees the visit and ensures that all aspects of the patient’s care are addressed before the patient leaves.
The Palestroni Foundation
The Geriatric Oncology Program was established with a $1 million grant from the Alfiero and Lucia Palestroni Foundation of Englewood, N.J. The Foundation was established by the late Alfiero Palestroni, a major real estate developer and property manager, and his wife, Lucia. She now continues her husband’s legacy “to aid individuals with physical or mental infirmities ... and to help those who are unable to help themselves.”
The Geriatric Oncology Division Team
RICHARD ROSENBLUTH, M.D.
The Divisions of Geriatric Oncology and Supportive Care and Pain Management are directed by Richard J. Rosenbluth, M.D., a hematologist/medical oncologist with more than 30 years of experience treating patients with cancer and serious blood disorders. Dr. Rosenbluth is principal investigator for The Cancer Center's Clinical Community Oncology Program, the only CCOP in New Jersey. Read full bio.
Jose Contreras, M.D.
Advanced Practice Nurse/Clinician