Senior Cancer Information

Cancer is common among the elderly. As the population ages, seniors are at greater risk for getting the disease even if they don’t have a family history. There are several reasons why this is true. Some cancers are hereditary and others are caused by long-term exposure to cancer-causing substances, like those in tobacco smoke.

Cancer also becomes more likely as you get older and everyday damage to your cells and genes accumulates. Even though our bodies work to restore and manage the damage, the cells may become abnormal and replicate, causing a mass of tissue known as a “growth tumor.” If that tumor continues to grow it can harm nearby organs and tissues sending cancer cells to other parts of your body.

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in women and their risk for developing it increases with age. While not as prevalent, men can develop breast cancer too. It typically strikes those between ages 60 and 70.

Clinical Breast Exam: A doctor or health care professional will examine your breasts and underarms for lumps or other changes that may suggest breast cancer.

Mammogram: This special breast x-ray frequently detects cancers too small for you or your doctor to feel. The C.R. Wood Cancer Center follows National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommendations for Mammograms. Read more about Breast Cancer.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical Cancer is caused by a virus called the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can stay in your body for years.

Pap Test: Your doctor will gently scrape cells from your cervix and vagina and send them to the laboratory to see if they are abnormal. Women should have this test every three years.

Pelvic Exam: During a pelvic exam your physician checks your vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, rectum and pelvis, including your ovaries, for masses, growths or other abnormalities. Typically performed during your routine checkup, it may be done if you are having unusual vaginal discharge or pelvic pain.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men and women in the United States. If detected early it is often curable. Generally found in those over 50, your risk increases with age. You are also more likely to develop colorectal cancer if you have polyps (growths inside your colon and rectum that may become cancerous), a high-fat diet, a family history or personal history of colorectal cancer, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

A fecal occult blood test, or FOBT, checks for hidden blood in your stool. Sometimes cancers or polyps can bleed and an FOBT can detect small amounts of bleeding.

A sigmoidoscopy uses a lighted instrument called a sigmoidoscope to examine your rectum and lower colon or sigmoid colon.

A colonoscopy examines your rectum and entire colon using a lighted instrument called a colonoscope. This is considered the gold-standard exam for colorectal cancer.

A virtual colonoscopy, which requires the same preparation as a standard colonoscopy, uses an external scanning machine instead of a device that is inserted into your colon. The colon must be inflated with gas for proper scanning.

A digital rectal exam, or DRE, calls for your doctor to insert a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum to feel for abnormal areas. Read more about Colorectal Cancer.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in American men. It results from the uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells in the prostate gland. When cells in the prostate are malignant, they cluster together to form small “islands” of cancer. In many cases it takes years for the cancer to spread and often times it does not. This type of cancer typically grows slowly and occurs mainly in older men. Nearly two-thirds of the cases are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 67.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is the most common screen for prostate cancer. It is recommended for men between 40 and 75 and those with an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Digital rectal exam (DRE) requires your doctor to feel part of your prostate through the rectal wall. Any swelling or enlargements, firm spots or lumps may suggest cancer. If cancer is suspected, your physician will order a biopsy to remove a small sample of your prostate tissue. If the results are positive additional tests may be performed to determine if the cancer has spread. Read more about Prostate Cancer.

Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer is the most common type of cancer in America. The only way to accurately detect this type of cancer is to perform a biopsy. A small piece of tissue is taken from the suspected area and then viewed under a microscope to determine if the cells are cancerous. Read more about Skin Cancer.