Senior Living Care Blog

How Cancer Affects Seniors

Posted by Joe Gilmore on Aug 2, 2019 11:00:00 AM


Aging can bring about a number of different issues related to health; one common problem that can be overlooked is cancer. Many don’t realize that cancer is a disease of old age. In fact, according to one study, about 60 percent of cancers occur in people aged 65 and older. Furthermore, 70 percent of cancer deaths occur in this age group as well.


While the disease can occur at any age, advancing age is the most important risk factor for cancer. Other risk factors include family history, health habits, environment, and health conditions. These risk factors can lead to gene mutations in the body that cause cells to become cancerous.


While there are treatment options for those dealing with cancer, such as medication and chemotherapy, there are also preventative methods that you can take to reduce your chances of dealing with the common types of cancer that older adults are affected by, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer.


Cancer and Seniors

An elderly couple sitting together after receiving cancer treatment

Cancer refers to a large number of diseases that is caused by the abnormal development of cells that will divide uncontrollably. These changes, called mutations, can infiltrate and destroy body tissue and will often spread throughout the body. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the world however, outlooks are improving due to improvements in cancer screening and treatment.


These types of gene mutations can do a number of things that can cause health issues and lead to cancer. For one, a gene mutation can lead to rapid growth in which a cell will grow and divide creating new cells that all have the same mutation. It can also fail to stop uncontrolled cell growth. Gene mutations will also make mistakes when repairing DNA errors leading to cells becoming cancerous.


Some of the common signs and symptoms associated with cancer include fatigue, weight changes, skin changes, difficulty swallowing, persistent discomfort after eating, unexplained bruising, and more.


Common Types of Cancer

Breast Cancer — Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer that affects older women. The chance of developing breast cancer may increase after the age of 60 but the likelihood of dying from it is low. According to Harvard Health, for older women with early breast cancer, treatment is likely to be relatively gentle. A small percentage of older women have cancers that spread beyond their breast and older women who do chemotherapy usually do very well.


Colorectal Cancer Colorectal cancer refers to cancer that affects the colon, rectum, and other parts of the large intestine. This type of cancer occurs when tumors form in the lining of the large intestine, the problem is common in both men and women but the risk increases after the age of 50. Risk increases even more if you have a family history of the problem or eat a diet that is high in fat or smoke.


Lung Cancer — Lung cancer is primarily a disease of older populations. In fact, less than half a percent of lung cancer-related deaths occur at an age younger than 40 years with the highest incidence rates being in older people. The median diagnosis for lung cancer in the United States is 70 years old and almost 70 percent of patients are diagnosed after 65 years of age.


Prostate Cancer — After skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in American men is prostate cancer. The incidence of prostate cancer has steadily increased in elderly men over the last decade and estimates say that the number will only continue to rise. Prostate cancer affects one in six men and predominantly affects older men.


Cancer Prevention

A doctor who can diagnose cancer in individuals.

While there are treatment options to help those dealing with cancer, there are also several prevention methods to help avoid the problem entirely.


Alcohol — Alcohol is a known carcinogen and can cause DNA damage, chronic inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, and other issues. Limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of cancer. Alcohol increases your risk of cancer because the body breaks it down into a chemical called acetaldehyde which damages the DNA and prevents the body from repairing the damage. When DNA is damaged, a cell can begin to grow out of control and create a cancer tumor.


Smoking — Smoking is one of the most common causes of cancer. In fact, smoking in general reduces life expectancy by about 10 years but quitting can lead to almost immediate benefits. One study found that quitting smoking even up to the age of 60 can significantly reduce the risk of developing lung cancer.


Sun Exposure — Avoiding excessive sun exposure and harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun can increase your risk of cancer. Limiting sun exposure by staying in the shade, protecting your , and applying sunscreen can all help you avoid UV rays.


Get Regular Cancer Screenings — It is best to talk with your doctor about what types of cancer screening exams are available and how they can best help you. It is important to take risk factors into consideration when learning about cancer screening.


Next Steps

Obviously, cancer is a serious problem that can lead to a number of different symptoms, most of which are dependent upon the type of cancer your loved one is affected by. Regardless of specific symptoms, most of them can make life difficult and even make it impossible for your loved one to live independently as they may be unable to perform day-to-day tasks. When this occurs, it is normally best to enlist the help of a caregiver or an assisted living facility.


Landmark Senior Living is one assisted living facility in Hobbs New Mexico that is dedicated to providing your loved one with the care and comfort that they deserve at this chapter in their lives. Landmark can also provide your loved one with a social activities to keep them happy and stimulated during their stay with us. If you are interested in learning more about Landmark and what we have to offer, please visit our website and reach out to schedule a time to visit one of our facilities.


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Topics: Senior Health

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