It is not unusual to hear of a senior person diagnosed with cancer. Many live in fear of developing the big C. Being on the receiving end of a cancer diagnosis may be one of life’s most overwhelming and scariest experiences. They may feel like they have just been given their termination to what they had hoped to be a much longer life.
Cancer is often a terminal illness and remains one of the primary causes of death globally. Despite its high prevalence, there still hasn’t been a conventional medical treatment for ‘curing’ cancer. In advanced cases, palliative care is often used to ease pain and discomfort.
Generally, a person’s risk of getting cancer increases as they age, which is why it is a significant concern for seniors. The higher risk of cancer developing in older adults is usually due to age-related changes in the body occurring at the molecular and cellular levels.
After all, aging is characterized by a gradual decline of overall physiological functions, such as systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, and more. These age-related changes in the body eventually lead to cellular breakdown and the body’s inability to fight cancerous cells as it once did.
On a molecular level, old age signifies less efficient DNA repair, which paves the way for more breakdown problems in the body. Cancer does not develop overnight; however, aging causes a sufficient number of cells to become vulnerable to carcinogenesis, or the process where normal cells are transformed into cancer cells.
Cancer goes through a multi-stage development process that begins with initiation. The succeeding stages of cancer are promotion and transformation, which involves the release and interaction of cytokines and chemokines, coupled with metabolic and hormonal changes. These phases set the stage for tumor progression to occur. Finally, we have the final progression stage, where the metastasis of malignant tumor cells occurs.
Common Forms of Cancers Seniors Fear Developing
Some cancers are more common in seniors, including breast, colon, bladder, lung, and prostate cancer. Breast and colon cancer are relatively easier to detect in their early stages than the rest.
Breast cancer: This cancer is easier to detect in its early stages through mammograms. For women, it is advisable to get an annual mammogram to help see if there is a threat of this disease and for treatment to occur while cancer is at its earliest stage. On the bright side, many women diagnosed with breast cancer survive the disease if found early.
Colon cancer: Colon cancer is another common cancer that seniors must keep checking on. Colon cancer programs are available in some areas, where you are given a bowel sample kit, take a sample of your bowel movement, and send it off to be tested. Bowel cancer is easily detected in its early stage through a colonoscopy test. It can also be treated if found early.
Bladder cancer: Bladder cancer is not so easily detected in its early stages as there are no routine screenings that enable early detection of the disease. However, certain risk factors can make a person more vulnerable to this illness. Early symptoms are seeing blood in the urine, painful urination, urinating more often than considered normal, and generally experiencing some problems with urination.
Lung Cancer: One of the deadliest types of cancer is lung cancer, which is still more common in seniors. The mortality rate remains high with this form as breathing is impaired and the body is not getting the oxygen it desperately needs. If you are a smoker, it would be wise to stop. There’s no time like the present to care for your lung health.
Prostate Cancer: Prostate cancer is often diagnosed in senior-aged men. A blood test is conducted to detect this form of cancer, which looks at specific antigens in the body. There is a reasonable survival rate for prostate cancer if diagnosed early, and many men that have been diagnosed with this disease live many years after their diagnosis. Treatments for prostate cancer include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Cancer is a disease no one wants to be diagnosed with. To prevent cancer from taking hold of your body, start doing what you can to be in control of your health! Eat healthy foods, exercise every day, drink plenty of water and sleep peacefully every night. It’s harder for cancer to take over a very fit body.