February is National Cancer Prevention Month.
As always, this blog will focus on the topic as it relates to elderly care.
As with many illnesses, the single greatest risk factor for developing cancer is aging. Over 60% of cancers in the US occur in people age 65 and older.
Cancer.net states, "...when it comes to older adults with cancer, age is truly just a number. Each older adult will have a different level of health and independence and a different expectation of treatment. As a result, a person’s age should not be the only factor considered when determining treatment options for cancer."
One of the most important considerations for good cancer outcomes includes early detection and treatment. Here are some signs and symptoms you should be on the lookout for and bring to your doctor's attention. Of course they could be signs of other disorders besides cancer, so again early detection is important for elderly care:
- A thickening or lump in the body, for example a lump in the breast may be a sign of breast cancer
- Significant weight gain or loss with no known reason
- Frequently feeling weak or very tired
- Unusual bleeding or discharge
- A sore that won't heal
- Hoarseness or a cough that won't go away
- Changes in bowel or bladder including frequency, color, odor or texture
- Discomfort after eating
- Difficulty swallowing
When discussing these symptoms with your doctor, there are a number of screening and diagnostic exams he or she may recommend:
- For Breast Cancer: Clinical breast exam, Mammogram
- For Cervical Cancer (women): Clinical pelvic exam, Pap test
- For Colorectal Cancer: Colonoscopy, Sigmoidoscopy, or Fecal Occult Blood Test
- For Mouth and Throat Cancer: An oral exam of lips, tongue, mouth and throat (doctor or dentist)
- For Prostate Cancer (men): Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test; Digital rectal exam
- For Skin Cancer: Visual skin exams
Of course, most of us would rather simply do what we can to prevent cancer. Here are just a few tips:
- Do not use tobacco products
- Avoid sunburns
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially colorful ones which generally contain anti-oxidants
- Reduce intake of fatty foods
- Eat plenty of fiber
- Keep your weight down
- Drink alcohol in moderation, only 1 to 2 drinks per day
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid contacts with dangerous substances by following safety cautions on bottles and cans
For more information, click here to visit cancer.net on cancer for older adults which has a wealth of information about cancer treatments, caregiving considerations, and links to a wide variety of elderly care resources (medical, insurance, financial, transportation). Another great site is the National Institute of Health's site on Cancer Facts for People Over 50.