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The Uninvited Guest: Cancer Awareness & Insight on Care for Aging Adults


Senior woman wearing a head scarf and sitting in wheelchair with an IV in her hand while daughter comforts her.

Growing older is beautiful and has never ending advantages – experiencing the growth and accomplishments of loved ones, fulfilling dreams, and reserving an ample amount of relaxation time for oneself. However, there will always be a yin to the yang, a darkness that accompanies the light. Disease plays a large role in the health of seniors with the most common age-related disease being: osteoporosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, dementia, Parkinson's,  hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and hearing loss to name just a few. Except there is one major disease we all know and has been around for centuries and that is: cancer


Cancer comes in many shapes and sizes and can affect people of all ages. However, it is seen more prominently to affect the older community due to the build-up of damage in once healthy cells that takes place over a length of a lifetime. This makes cancer awareness and taking proactive steps essential. In this article, we will delve into the most prevalent cancers affecting seniors and provide insights on caring for older adults diagnosed with cancer.


The Top Cancers Affecting the Senior Community


Breast Cancer

Believe it or not, breast cancer is not exclusive to women in their younger years. Older adults, both men and women, can be diagnosed with breast cancer. Regular screenings and self-examinations remain crucial for early detection and effective treatment. Any new lumps, bumps, rashes, or unknown pain associated with the breast area should be examined by a healthcare professional. 


Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a leading cancer type among older men. Routine screenings, such as prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, are essential for early detection. Treatment options vary, ranging from active surveillance to surgery or radiation therapy.


Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer affects the colon or rectum and is prevalent in the senior community. Regular screenings, such as colonoscopies, help detect precancerous growths and allow for their removal before they become malignant. Some symptoms include change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, ongoing discomfort in the belly area, and losing weight without trying. 


Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a significant concern for seniors, especially those with a history of smoking. Early detection through imaging tests like CT scans can improve treatment outcomes. Non-smokers are not immune either, and awareness of environmental risk factors is crucial.


Skin Cancer

Skin cancer, including melanoma, is common among seniors due to a lifetime of sun exposure. Regular skin checks, the use of sunscreen, and protective clothing can significantly reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.


Insight Into What to Expect When Battling Cancer in the Golden Years

It can be overwhelming for older adults with newly diagnosed cancer in the body but knowing that there are several care and treatment options available should put our minds at ease. 


Tailored Treatment Plans

Seniors often have unique health considerations to keep in mind. Having open communication between healthcare providers, patients, and their families is essential for informed decision-making surrounding what treatments are best for the situation. Chronic conditions or reduced organ functions can affect older adults and is important to mention when deciding which treatment is best for your diagnosis. 


Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA)

A CGA is a holistic evaluation of a senior's physical, mental, and social well-being. This assessment helps healthcare professionals identify potential challenges in cancer treatment and develop strategies to address them.


Palliative Care

Palliative care focuses on improving the quality of life for seniors with cancer, addressing pain management, emotional well-being, and overall comfort. It is not exclusive to end-of-life care and can be integrated at any stage of cancer treatment.


Family and Caregiver Support

The role of family and caregivers is pivotal in supporting seniors with cancer. Emotional and practical support, along with clear communication about treatment plans, can positively impact the well-being of both the patient and their support network.


Nutritional Support

Cancer treatments can affect appetite and nutritional intake. Older adults may face challenges in maintaining a healthy diet. Nutritionists can work with healthcare teams to develop a personally tailored dietary plan that supports overall health and aid in recovery.


Cancer awareness in seniors is a multifaceted endeavor that involves not only understanding the prevalent cancers affecting this demographic but also embracing personalized care strategies. Early detection through screenings, comprehensive geriatric assessments, and holistic support systems contribute to improved outcomes and enhanced quality of life for older adults facing a cancer diagnosis. As we continue to advance in medical knowledge and technology, the prospects for effective cancer care in seniors are becoming increasingly promising.

 

If you would like to read more informational articles on senior lifestyle: click here! Or, discover a new healthy recipe: here.

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