- Pancreatic cancer, commonly diagnosed in seniors, originates in the pancreas cells and leads to tumorous growth.
- Age, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and family history increase pancreatic cancer risk in older adults.
- Pancreatic cancer treatments are challenging but can include home health care, palliative care, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
- Preventive measures like quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing diabetes can reduce risk.
- Regular check-ups, early screenings, and a strong support system are crucial in managing pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that affects the pancreas, the organ that produces digestive juices and hormones that regulate blood sugar. This type of cancer is usually found late in development, making treatment challenging. According to the American Cancer Society, about 70% of pancreatic cancer cases occur in people over 65. Here’s what you need to know about pancreatic cancer, why older people get it, and how to deal with it.
What is Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the pancreas cells, a gland located behind your stomach. The pancreas has two main functions: producing digestive juices to break down food and releasing hormones like insulin and glucagon to regulate blood sugar levels. When abnormal cells in the pancreas start growing uncontrollably, it can lead to the formation of tumors and, eventually, cancer.
Why is It More Common in Older People?
Pancreatic cancer is more commonly diagnosed in older adults because people’s bodies become less efficient at repairing damaged DNA as they age. Here’s a deeper look into the reasons it’s more common for seniors:
The risk of pancreatic cancer increases with age, and seniors are more likely to develop this type due to the wear and tear on their cells over the years. The pancreas becomes less efficient at repairing cell damage, making it more susceptible to cancerous growth.
Smoking is a major risk factor for pancreatic cancer. This habit increases the risk by two to three times, and seniors who have been smokers for years are at even greater risk. Quitting smoking at any age can still help reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Obesity is a risk factor for many types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer. Seniors are at greater risk because they are more likely to be overweight or obese due to reduced metabolism and less physical activity. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine can help reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Seniors who have been living with diabetes for a long time and have difficulty controlling their blood sugar may be at greater risk. It is essential to manage diabetes properly to reduce the risk of complications such as pancreatic cancer.
5. Family History
In some cases, pancreatic cancer may run in families. Seniors with a history of pancreatic cancer in their family may be at greater risk of developing the disease themselves. Genetic testing can identify specific genetic mutations associated with pancreatic cancer, which can help seniors take preventive measures.
Ways to Deal with Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is a challenging disease to treat, especially in older adults. However, there are ways to help manage the condition and improve quality of life:
Home Health Care
Pancreatic cancer can leave seniors bedridden while they are getting treated. Thankfully, Medicare home health care services are available to help seniors receive medical care in the comfort of their homes. This type of support can also provide emotional support to patients and their families during difficult times. Medicare also covers it, making it an affordable option for seniors.
Palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms, pain, and stress caused by pancreatic cancer. It is essential for older adults who cannot undergo aggressive treatments due to their age or health condition. Palliative care can be provided at home or in a hospital setting.
Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy
These standard pancreatic cancer treatments kill or prevent cancer cells from growing. These treatments may have side effects, so discussing which option best suits each senior patient with a doctor is crucial.
Pancreatic cancer is a devastating disease, especially for older adults. However, by understanding the risk factors and taking preventive measures, seniors can reduce their chances of developing the disease. For those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, various treatment options are available to improve their quality of life. Remember to stay in touch with a doctor for regular check-ups and screenings to catch any health issues early on. Lastly, having a strong support family and friends support system can make all the difference in dealing with pancreatic cancer. No one has to face this disease alone.