The staggering statistics of colon cancer in the elderly make it a disease that can’t be ignored. With the American Cancer Society reporting that colon cancer is the second leading cause of death in men and women in the U.S. and 90 percent of those cases being seniors over the age of 50, treating a senior that has a colon cancer prognosis can be a common occurrence.
Colon cancer in the elderly develops with a polyp (growth of tissue) that grows into the colon. If this polyp isn’t found and removed, it can develop into cancer. Bowel cancer in the elderly can affect the rectum, colon or anus. These areas can produce polyps that are cancerous and would need surgery to remove them before they become life threatening.
Colon Cancer Causes In The Elderly
While the cases of colon cancer in the elderly are most frequent, these numbers are dropping off as regular screenings are increasing when a senior turns 50. The exact cause of colon cancer in the elderly is unknown, but factors such as heredity, smoking, and previous polyp detection can increase the potential for a senior to develop the disease. Other factors such as alcohol abuse and obesity can also be contributing causes for colon cancer in the elderly as well as the increase in their age.
According to the American Cancer Society, age is a significant contributing factor to developing colon cancer for the elderly as the median age for the disease is 68 in men and 72 in women. If a senior is African American, they also have a stronger chance of developing colon cancer as this ethnic group is 20 percent more at risk of the disease.
Symptoms Of Colon Cancer In The Elderly
The symptoms of colon cancer can vary per individual but some of the most common include:
- Change in bowel regular bowel movements such as diarrhea or constipation
- Need to have a bowel movement that reoccurs even after having one
- Bleeding of the rectum
- Stool with blood in it
- Stools that are dark in color
- Stomach cramping or pain
- Fatigue or a feeling of weakness
- Unintentional weight loss
These symptoms may indicate that cancer has progressed or they may be signs of another bowel or stomach issue occurring. Colon cancer rarely has symptoms in its early stages which is why screening is so important in seniors. A colon cancer screening can identify if colon cancer is present in a senior and allow the necessary treatment to occur as required.
Colon Cancer Prognosis In The Elderly
The colon cancer prognosis of an elderly person may differ depending on age, family history, and medical condition. Doctors may be more aggressive in treating colon cancer in a younger senior as their bodies are more apt to handle the adverse effects of the aggressive and complex treatment.
Seniors that have multiple medical conditions may not be able to handle the treatment that is necessary to reduce and eliminate the cancer. Their bodies may not be able to a complicated surgery, or chemo treatment or their age may dictate that their life expectancy is nearing its term.
Typical colon cancer treatment for the elderly includes:
- Surgery to remove the cancer-causing polyps
- Radiation therapy to treat the affected area
- Chemotherapy to target the cancer cells.
- Cancer vaccine for treatment
Early Detection Of Bowel Cancer In The Elderly
Because bowel cancer in the elderly is being detected early on, it can be treated successfully in over 90 percent of the cases that are presented. This means that in an elderly person that develops polyps, will be able to have them removed before colon cancer develops and spreads throughout the body. An individual that has been diagnosed with colon cancer and treated has an average five-year survival rate according to the American Cancer Society.
As a caregiver to your parent, it is important to make sure they have regular and ongoing colon cancer screens early on to provide detection of polyps before they become serious. This can help improve colon cancer prognosis in the elderly and prevent harsh treatment to eradicate the disease. Consult with your parent’s doctor to understand if surgery can help cure your parent’s colon cancer and provide a successful recovery for your parent.