Cancer in the Elderly
As age advances the susceptibility to cancer increases. Many factors like environmental pollution, faulty diet ,lifestyle changes and smoking increase the risk of developing cancer.
Prostate cancer and lung cancer are the commonest cancers in men over 60 years.In women over 60 years of age it is cervical, breast and ovarian cancer.
Common symptoms that elderly people should watch out for are :-
- unexplained weight loss or gain
- cough which refuses to go away. Coughing up blood.
- any unexplained bleeding or discharge.
- a thickening or lump anywhere in the body especially in the breast for women.
- hoarseness of voice.
- difficulty in swallowing which is gradually increasing,
- unexplainable loss of appetite, weakness, fatigue, changes in bowel or bladder habit.
- moles or skin changes.
- non healing sores.
These symptoms are not exclusive to cancer hence always check with a doctor if you have any of the above symptoms.
Screening tests are very important for early detection of cancer in the elderly. These include detailed history taking by the doctor covering age, symptoms, past history of illnesses, family history, sexual history, overall health status, a complete physical examination and appropriate diagnostic investigations.
Treatment of cancer in the elderly age group takes into account existing co morbidities like diabetes, hypertension etc. Older people also often have limited mobility, limited capability of caring for themselves and financial constraints. These have a psychological impact on them hence it is very important to have a strong support system and maintain a positive outlook throughout.