The Types of Cancers Affecting Seniors

Aging comes with changes in our bodies. We look, feel and even act differently as we age. However, we should enjoy our lives as much as we should, regardless of our age. To do this, we need to be keener about our lifestyles. Our health status should be of paramount concern. Advancing age increases a person's chances of getting cancer. Reports show that in America, those above the age of 65 are ten times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than those younger than them. Research also shows that 60% of patients newly diagnosed with cancer and 70% of those dying of cancer are aged over 65 years. If this trend continues, cancer may soon cause more deaths than heart diseases, which currently leads to the cause of deaths in America. This calls for concern. However, if you are diagnosed with cancer, it does not mean you will die of cancer, or that you are dying. This article will give you important information on what you need to know about cancer among seniors.

  • Q: What increases the prevalence of cancer among seniors?
    A: Some cancers are hereditary, while some result from exposure to carcinogenic substances. Although some risk factors such as obesity, alcohol, and smoking are avoidable, age-related factors are unavoidable.
    Some cancers are because of a decline in immunity and continued damage to body cells as one age. The thymus gland deteriorates as one becomes older. This gland regulates the body immunity by controlling the production of T cells, which fight cancer cells in our bodies. A decline in its functions means that the cancer cells produced in the body are not efficiently destroyed. They, therefore, accumulate and form a tumor. This explains why the prevalence of cancer is higher in older people than in the younger ones.
  • Q: Is cancer curable?
    A: Some cancers are curable if detected at an early stage. Cervical cancer, breast cancer, testicular, prostate, melanoma, thyroid and Hodgkin lymphoma are the most reversible, with a high survival rate. There are other cancers, such as hepatitis B, which have no cure but are treatable.
    Your doctor may tell you that your cancer is not curable, but it is treatable. This means that there is no way of completely getting rid of cancer in your body. You will have to manage cancer like any chronic disease. With proper management, however, you can live with cancer for years.
  • Q: What are the common cancers among the elderly?
    A: The list below shows the five common cancers in the elderly and their symptoms.
    • Lung Cancer
      It is caused by smoking, exposure to asbestos fibers, and in some cases, genetic factors. Some symptoms of lung cancer include wheezing, chest pains, chronic coughing and inability to breathe well.
    • Cancer of the colon
      The risk of colon cancer is increased in patients with diabetes type 2 and Crohn's disease. It is also high in people who eat too much meat and processed foods. Its symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, bloodstained stool and severe weight loss.
    • Gastric cancer
      Gastric cancer mainly affects people above the age of 60. Common symptoms are a loss of appetite and losing weight, feeling nauseous and frequent vomiting, stomach pain, jaundice and bloody stool.
    • Breast cancer
      Taking too much alcohol, obesity and high estrogen are some of the causes of this cancer that affects both men and women. Some patients are predisposed due to genetic factors. Some of the telltale signs of breast cancer are redness of the skin on the breasts, swollen breasts, pain on the nipple and a lump on the breast or under the armpit.
    • Prostate cancer
      This cancer affects men only. It is common among African Americans and those on a diet with a lot of meat. It is more prevalent in men above the age of 50 than their younger counterparts are. The common symptoms are bloody urine, problems when passing urine, urinating frequently and erectile dysfunction.
  • Q: How do doctors stage cancers?
    A: Cancer stages are determined by the location of the tumor, if it has affected other tissues, and if it has spread from the initial location. Staging of cancer is guided by the results of the tests conducted on a patient. The most common ways of staging cancers are listed and explained below.
    • A) Stages
      • Stage 0 - this cancer has not spread to any other tissues in the surrounding cells. It is totally cured when the tumor is removed through surgery
      • Stage 1 - this cancer, also known as early-stage cancer, has slightly spread to other tissue, but it has not affected lymph nodes.
      • Stage 2 and 3 – these are cancers that have widely spread in the body and are deeply grown into the tissues they have attached themselves to.
      • Stage 4- is a cancer that is at an advanced stage and has affected many lymph nodes.
    • B) Type of cancer
      • Tumor (T) - this describes the location and the size of the cancer. The cancer is assigned number 0-4. T0 is the smallest size of a tumor that has not spread to any other body parts.
      • Node - N0 show that the cancer has not affected any lymph nodes. The number assigned increases with the number of lymph nodes affected by the cancer.
      • Metastasis (M) - depending on the extent to which the cancer has spread in the body, it is staged as M. M0 denotes the cancer has not spread.
  • Q: What should you consider in managing cancer as an older adult?
    A: As a senior, your body may react differently to treatment, and you may be suffering from other medical conditions such as diabetes. If you are on medication for another condition, your doctor will be cautious about the drugs and treatment to put you on. They will delicately manage the two or multiple conditions. This may make them desist from administering some drugs commonly used on other patients. Cooperate with your doctor and healthcare provider. They have your best interest at heart.
Disclaimer: The articles on this website are not meant to encourage the self-management of any health or wellness issue. Nor are they meant to encourage any one type of medical treatment. Treatment or advice used by a reader may have varying results, as each individual is different. Any article reader with a health-related question, is encouraged to seek a proper consultation with a doctor or certified health provider. The articles on this website should not be used to disregard any medical or health-related advice, nor should they be the root cause for delay in seeing a doctor or a certified health provider.

The articles on this website should not be used to start the use of dietary supplements or vitamins, natural or herbal products, homeopathic medicine or other mentioned products prior to a proper consultation with a doctor or certified health provider.

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