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Cancer and the Older Person: Improving Care, Outcomes and Experience

Gain an introduction to modern strategies of geriatric oncology and support.

3,898 enrolled on this course

An elderly cancer patient and a medical practitioner
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • Accreditation

    AvailableMore info

This course will enhance your understanding of cancer care for geriatric patients and help you to build confidence and knowledge to care for older people who have been diagnosed with or are undergoing treatment for cancer.

Explore the specific needs of older patients

1 in 2 people will develop cancer in their lifetime, and often this diagnosis comes later in life.

On this course, you’ll develop a toolkit of resources around caring for older patients throughout their diagnosis, treatment and recovery or end of life.

Learn how to talk about cancer with older patients and their families

Led by professionals at University of Melbourne, you’ll learn communication methods and modes of questioning that will help you respectfully encourage others to respect and heed expert health advice.

You might be worried you’ll say the wrong thing, but you’ll learn how to make an action plan for talking about cancer and how to help people take action in their lives to live with and help to treat cancer.

As well as helping you learn and share the facts around geriatric oncology, this course will also help you to support someone who is diagnosed with cancer later in life.

Learn with one of the world’s most highly regarded medical faculties

The University of Melbourne is ranked among the 20 best universities in the world for Healthcare and Medicine [1].

This course draws on the world leading knowledge of the University, alongside the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) and Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology.


  • Week 1

    Why is Geriatric Oncology Important?

    • Introduction to Geriatric Oncology

      The number of older patients with cancer is increasing. This section looks at reasons why this is the case, and importantly provides a patient perspective of dealing with cancer as an older person.

    • Demographics and Prevalence

      This section will provide definitions, trends and statistics around ageing and cancer. You will also learn more about the specific health concerns of the older person with cancer and the implications for health professionals.

  • Week 2

    Diagnosis and treatment

    • Introduction to diagnosis

      Diagnosis is an important step in treating older adults with cancer. This section will step you through how to do an assessment for older cancer patients.

    • Treatment

      There are factors specific to older adults that health professionals must consider when recommending and providing treatment. This section explores treatment options, impacts on body systems and tools to help with decision-making.

  • Week 3

    Supporting the older person

    • Supportive care for the older person

      Supportive care is fundamental for the patient experience across the continuum of cancer. Improving the quality of rehabilitation, secondary cancer prevention, survivorship, and end-of-life care are the aims of supportive care.

    • Multidisciplinary teams providing supportive care

      Multidisciplinary teams enable collaboration in the planning and delivery of care for an older person. This involves the pertinent disciplines required to effectively plan treatment and care from diagnosis to end-of-life care.

    • Planning for the future

      Diagnosis and treatment associated with cancer can be more complicated for older adults. Empowering and providing peace of mind for older patients and their families into the future is important.

    • Preventing elder abuse

      As our population becomes older the prevalence of elder abuse may increase. This can occur in any setting and may be mental or physical. To support older people, health professionals must recognise risk factors and signs of abuse.

  • Week 4


    • Effective communication

      Effective communication is one of the most important skills required for patient care. In this section, you will reflect on the importance of a patient centred approach and also consider your own communication style.

    • Inclusive communication for underserved community groups

      Communicating with underserved community groups may requires particular sensitivity and skills. Here you will learn about strategies to assist you in supporting diverse communities.

    • Complex communication

      Delivering difficult news, broaching end of life care and dealing with sexuality are all areas that health professionals can find difficult to navigate. This section provides strategies in approaching these complex topics.

    • Informed communication

      Patients should be informed about their care at every step of their journey. This section focuses on bioethical principles for decision making and informed consent.

Who is this accredited by?

Australian College of Nursing
Australian College of Nursing:

This course is endorsed by ACN according to our Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Endorsed Course Standards according to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners:

This activity has been approved by the RACGP QI&CPD Program in the 2020-22 triennium, 40 Category 1 points

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

Add to Wishlist to be emailed when new dates are announced

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe factors that would differentiate a fit older person from a frail person as a result of cancer and its treatment
  • Explain how age associated changes might impact on a person’s ability to engage in treatment decision making and self-care
  • Explain the importance of effective communication and diversity of the population of an older person with cancer
  • Explore strategies to effectively identify values and wishes that influence the care an older person may receive
  • Explain the importance of a multidisciplinary approach in caring for an older person affected by cancer

Who is the course for?

Carers, doctors and nurses within this field, or family members of those suffering from a cancer diagnosis in old age.

Who will you learn with?

Associate Head, Education Development
Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. I am an educator with over 10 years experience in health care.

Who developed the course?

The University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne is a public research university located in Melbourne, Australia. We are Australia’s number one university and world leader in education, teaching and research excellence.

  • Established

  • Location

    Melbourne, Australia
  • World ranking

    Top 40Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022

VCCC Alliance

The VCCC Alliance is an alliance of ten Victorian organisations committed to cancer control.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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