Ageing is an inevitable process and many factors like genes, lifestyles, diet and environment determine longevity. Though life expectancy has increased in modern times thanks to advances in science, technology and medicine, the grinds of daily life take a heavy toll on our bodies. As humans grow older, physical conditions decline which lead to many illnesses and ailments.
Cancer can affect all age groups, cancers of the prostrate, colon and breast are the most common among the elderly.
Why do older people get cancer?
Some cancers can be inherited, and others are caused by long-term exposure to cancer-causing substances like those in tobacco smoke. But cancer also becomes more likely in the elderly and everyday damage to cells and genes eventually builds up. Our body works to repair and control this damage, but when cells continue to grow and divide and don’t die when they should, cancer may develop. Of course most symptoms of aging have nothing to do with cancer, but older folks who don’t report unusual changes to their doctor risk missing an early cancer that could be treated successfully.
Fighting The Bulge of Cancer
The risk of cancer increases with age, and the number of older adults. The care of older patients differs from that of younger adults because of differences in the biology of the tumor, age-related differences in host physiology, co-morbidity burden and psycho-social issues, which might impact the efficacy and side effects of cancer therapy.
When cancer is found early, treatment may be more likely to work. But decisions about how to treat older people may depend more on their general health and their quality of life than on their actual age. The presence of other health problems and the medications they are taking for these can also affect which cancer treatments they will receive. On the other hand, older people who are generally healthy do as well with most treatments, including chemotherapy, as their younger counterparts.
Pain can be one of the biggest challenges facing older cancer patients, since their other conditions and medications they may take can add to the pain from treatment. Thus it is important for caregivers to be aware of the patient’s overall health condition and to monitor their pain and health status carefully.
Family members, caregivers, and doctors of elderly cancer patients should be in consultation with the patient ,and try to assess not only any compromising health conditions, but include looking at their
social, emotional, and spiritual lives, all of which are likely to be challenged by cancer treatment and recovery. It is important for the patient and family members (and anyone else who is advocating for the patient) to ask questions and have open conversations with the health care team. One good way to do this is to ask for a family meeting to discuss the patient’s treatment plan and quality of life during and after treatment.