Cancer And The Elderly

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Cancer has long been a word that strikes fear into the heart of those who have been diagnosed with it or have had a loved one diagnosed with it. Cancer is a disease that takes over the cells in your body and turns them into cancer-producing cells. It is a hijacking of sorts. Cancer does not favor any age group. It picks on all ages from young children to senior citizens. Younger people usually have stronger immune systems. Because older people’s bodies are more susceptible to carcinogens, they have a lower chance of survival than a younger person. The elderly may also need additional care at home in such situations.

Senior Cancer Patient - elders and their struggles with cancer

Senior Cancer Patient

Some examples of what makes older people less able to beat cancer:

  1. Ongoing tissue inflammation – when tissues are inflamed they are more susceptible to infection or carcinogens.
  2. Lowered immunity – cancer is not a virus that attacks like the cold or flu at certain times of the year. We actually all fight cancer on a daily basis. Macrophages are cells in the body that literally surround the cancer cell and “eat” it. When your immune system gets low enough, the cancer cells begin to multiply faster than the body can get rid of them.
  3. Increased insulin resistance – The less the body is able to process and use insulin, the higher the blood sugar will be. The higher the blood sugar, the lower the immune system will get.
  4. Long term smoking – Smoking causes cancer. Tobacco is a carcinogen and using it for long periods of time can lead to lung, throat, or mouth cancer.
  5. Over consumption of alcohol – Alcohol abuse can lead liver cancer.
  6. Incapability to exercise – The more exercise a person is able to get, the stronger they will be. When an older person is too frail or weak to exercise, their body begins to break down. It will be more susceptible to diseases like cancer in a weakened state.
  7. Underlying conditions that prevent treatment – Cancer treatments can be harsh and cause complications with dire consequences in young people. When an older person is diagnosed with cancer, their doctor should sit down and discuss their list of underlying health conditions if there are any. When a person has underlying heart conditions, a doctor may withhold certain drugs like anthracyclines.


There may be some non-physical limitations that an elderly cancer patient may have in the fight against cancer:

  • An inability to research the latest cancer treatments online – Elderly people may not like to use the internet and therefore may not be aware of some of the newer treatments available. In this case a discussion with the doctor becomes even more important.
  • Transportation to and from the doctor’s office – It is very important that close friends or family members help with this task in order for the patient to get well. At the very least, a medical professional or insurance provider may recommend a government provided taxi service.

There is no doubt that the elderly will find it more difficult to fight cancer than younger and stronger people. This is what makes it so important for people to treat their bodies well from the earliest time possible.

One comment
  1. Rickie July 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I totally concur with everything you list. I would love to see you expound a little more on preventative measures such as avoiding sugar. Excellent article though!