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As we age, our risk for developing cancer increases. Many cancer survivors are age 75 or older. Older adult cancer survivors face unique challenges.
Older cancer survivors may be at higher risk for changes in quality of life after a diagnosis of cancer and treatment, including memory and cognition problems, worsening of chronic illness (such as heart disease or diabetes), and lack of social support.
Older adults may also have fewer financial resources, which can lead to difficulties managing household expenses and making ends meet.
However, I have found that many cancer survivors in this age group have amazing resilience and strength. They are well grounded and draw their energy and power to move forward from previous life experiences. At times, a positive influence comes from close family connections and a network of friends and social support.
Positive steps related to this issue include awareness that cancer treatments may need to be modified to meet the needs of older cancer patients (taking into consideration any chronic illnesses).
Also, clinical trials for new treatments need to include adults over the age of 75, so that the safety and side effects can be better understood in this age group.
Look for assistance from Navigator programs, mentors and other peer support resources such as the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org or 1-800-227-2345), CancerCare (www.cancercare.org or 1-800-813-4673) and Eldercare Locator (www.eldercare.gov or 1-800-677-1116).
What have you experienced? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Follow me on Twitter @SherylNess1. Join the discussion at #livingwithcancer.
Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.
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My 78 year old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2012 and in January 2013 had a mastectomy and the removal of 16 lymph nodes, 4 of which had cancer. The oncologist told us last week it was Stage IIIA and triple negative. We are struggling with making a decision about whether or not to have chemotherapy. She will have radiation treatments.
Mom has Parkinson's Disease. She is three-weeks post-op from the mastectomy & lymph node removal and trying to regain her strength; she still requires assistance getting of of a chair, getting in and out of bed, bathing, and dressing. These are all tasks she struggled with before, but she could do them with some amount of effort. The oncologist said the chemo will probably cause her to be bed-ridden during treatment since she is already so weak due to the Parkinson's. In addition, she has the memory issues associated with PD. I am concerned she will not be able to remember and relate her chemo side affects.
I am also always worried about anything that could impact her mobility since she falls easily; one time hitting her head so hard she had a small sub-dural hematoma. Or anything that would cause her mental status to decline further. She is well oriented, she just has issues memory issues occasionally. But, while in the hospital for those few days for her surgery, she became totally confused and disoriented.
Does anyone have any experience with a person with PD receiving chemo? Thank you
I was diagnosed with breast cancer May 2,2011 Stage 4.I have had 3 surgeries and 10 mo of chemoboth breasts removed and my lymph nodes under my left arm,I had radiation and am at 22 of 29.I keep the Lord in my pocket every day.I will soon be done with treatment.Keep thinking positive all of you.
Anne, I just read your comment of 3/31/12 and burst out laughing. I doubt that is a reaction you expected! My "cancer doctor" refers to me in each of his reports as an "87 years young lady". I'm determined to consider it a compliment. I'm sure that is what he considers it. He is a year younger than my oldest daughter. It just epitomizes what you call "alien" to the younger generation. When he recommended a mastectomy, he said that is what he would recommend it for his wife if she were I. I replied: If I were your wife's age I would agree. What would you recommend for your mother? In January I was diagnosed with DCIS. After 2 mammograms, 2 sonagrams, two biopsies and an xray using "gamma"something dye, no aggressive cells could be found but he still wanted to do a "simple mastectomy" "to be sure". I refused. He put me on an aromatase inhibitor and 3 days ago a new sonagram showed the tumor had decreased 50% in size and now he says no surgery. He will see me again in 3 months. I am, of course, on cloud 9. All thru that period of 3 months I lay awake at night worrying that I had substituted my ignorance for his expertise and what would that bring? If I can find a peaceful place in my mind, I will accept that nothing in life is ever sure. If the tumor doesn't start to grow I know I have a normal length of life ahead of me. If not, well that is a new decision. I'm active - Church, gym 3 x/wk, visit m
Hi, My dad was just diagnosed with lung cancer and we are going to find out more about his lung cancer in two days we are going to head down to Mayo for a second opion. My dad is 78 years old and is otherwise healthy. Do any of you have and suggestions on treatment options. They tell us he is in an "advanced stage" and that it is in his lymphnoid? Any info would be much appreciated thank you.
My 77 yo mom was diagnosed with CMML (from MDS) and a recurrence of NHL B Cell. Her Dr told us that all we can do is make her comfortable and is not recommending any kind of medication, besides a monthly Immunoglobulin drip and a weekly red blood shot. I wondered what you thought about that and if it would help extend and improve her life to use one of the medications out there now.
Al – My heart breaks for you and your daughter. You lost a wife, a partner, and she lost a mother during one of the most difficult periods in your lives. It’s sad how far apart families are today, especially as we grow older and need each other so much. I agree with May to some extent about getting involved in a support group but it’s hard to say which should come first: a group for those who have been widowed or one for those with cancer. If you were married for a very long time, tending your wife’s garden probably “nourishes” you more than any other activity. Just remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect and I’m sure you know that she’d understand your limitations. If you feel up to it, you could always try to do both; the garden and the support group(s). My thoughts are with you as you approach yet another challenge with your surgery this summer.
May - I found this information on the following website, hope it helps: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Cancertreatment/Treatmenttypes/Chemotherapy/Individualdrugs/Capecitabine.aspx
“If you have trouble swallowing capecitabine (xeloda) tablets, they can be dissolved in a 200ml glass of warm water. The mixture should be stirred with a spoon until the tablets are completely dissolved, and then drunk immediately. You can add some blackcurrant juice just before swallowing to help disguise the taste. The glass and spoon should be washed and kept separate from your other crockery and cooking utensils.”
Have felt lousy all day. Mostly my stomach upset and tired. However, This what my day held. Went to Good Friday service. Went to the funeral home to pay my respects to a dear friend, Wwent to dinner afterwards and now will return at seven to a special Draping of the Cross service at church. I am not bragging I just encourage all that are eeling ill and going thru chemo to try to keep your regular routine. As I have said before I do not always have the energy to do this but today at the current time my stomach has settled down and I am not so tired althaough I will be glad to go to bed tonight. The original topic is the unique problems we have to face as seniors with cancer diagnosis. I am not sure we are that much different thanthe younger ones other than being alone. I am fortunate to have a husband that is suportive. Finances arae a worry, future concerns me and continued chemo concerns and almost frightens me. I just do not know from day to day wht to expect. This may sound quite jumbled but felt like writing tonight. I had so hoped for a much happier old age 76. At the funerl home I saw many of my friends at a table laughing and having time. I did not wish them not to but wished I had felt like joining them.
5 years ago, yesterday, I was diagnosed with NSCLC and staged at 3B. Surgery and Chemo followed and then two years on a trial drug called Tarceva. Only 15% of any stage Lung Cancer will survive 5 years so I count my blessings. I am living proof that Miracles do happen.
I had a stage 3 breast cancer and was treated with chemo, radiation and surgery. I have been left with constant static noise in my ears. I have seen an EENT physician who says this condition is a result of my chemo. I would like some additional info on this side effect of cancer treatment
You may want to lower your age from 75.. The longer you survive with cancer (chronic) the faster you become financially drained. Pre-existing Condition is just another way of saying that you have less rights then others, as deemed by the insurance industry and you are forced to pay more depleating your financial resources. This then follows the cancer survivor to self -insured companies and large companies concerned about healthcare costs when seeking employment should the employer find out.Discrimination in the work place isn't legal but does exist.
Al So sorry about the loss of your wife. I am sure you miss her dearly. How long had you been married.? You certainly have your plate full. Perhaps you should consider letting the gardening go and establish another hobby that you enjoy. I am sure you enjoyed her gardens and watching her work in them. I know I love gardening and my husband does not. There is no doubt in my mind he will not keep them when my time comes. However, he likes to write and work puzzles and loves to talk. That is all part of our growing old. Change in health, relationships,habits, interests. Being lonely is someathing harder to deal with than actual pain. Have you tried or are you a member of a church familly. If so don't hesitate to tell them how lonely you are. They will respond. I agree everything you said is so difficult but don't give up. Read the note from Sheryl she entered a few blogs back. We also have a Friends Together in our town. They have a group just for men once a week to talk about losses. I am aware these are easier said than done but they are just suggestions. I am also going thru canacaer treatments and it is no fun. God Bless.
Beat prostate cancer 4 years ago but now dealing with bladder cancer. Days are long and lonely. My wife died 2 months ago and daughter lives far away and undergoing chemo. for breast cancer. I live alone now with no family nearby. Trying to keep up my wife's beautiful garden while putting up with the once a week pain and discomfort of the bladder treatments. Hard to find much to smile about while anticipating bladder removal surgery this coming summer
Diagnosed with colon cancer at age 67. Surgery (stage 3B), six months of chemo. The interesting part was my RA was in remission for almost 2 yrs. Now it's back and the Rx is MTX. Most days I do what I can, which is pretty much. Just to keep life exciting, adopted a second dog. She's a rescue, under 2 yrs old and definitely full of puppy mischief. Keeps my fitness program in high gear. Helps keep us amused, too. Great for those days when I'm stiff, or not quite up to par. I'm thankful for each day.
Thank you Sheryl for taking the time to make a note. I have found this site to be very helpful. I check it every day and sometimes twice. I am amazed that more folks do not use it. How often do we get to express ourselves without revealing who we are. It is personal and yet private. I encourage all of you reading this to express yourself positive or negative. My experience today was two visitors. Each had a long story about a relative that had been diagnosed with cancer and how they died. The difference is that now research has found so many new ways to fight this disease. Would anyone have a suggestion how to get that terrible taste out of my mouth from xeloda? I have difficulty swallowing pills so my pharmacist has me dissolving them in water and swallowing the iiquid. I brush my teeth 4 times a day. Come on seniors lets get this ball rolling and speak out what is on your mind. We need each other. Thank you again Sheryl. I appreciate you. May
May - I can only imagine how hard it is to stay so positive all of the time. It is ok to feel just what you are feeling...and I think we all can say that you have permission to be down some days. It is great to hear that your oncologist is staying in touch with Mayo. It is wonderful the collaboration that takes place at Mayo Clinic on a daily basis!
Thank you Mabel. I was beginning to think I was alone in my thoughts. I am dressed and ready for church and do try to keep busy. However the fact that my cancaer thas returned three times it is hardd to get it out of my mind and what the future holds. I know what you mean aabout people asking how are you. I want to tell them how do you think I am. Folks keep telling me how GOOD I loook. If they only knew. Another comment is you haven't lost your hair yet. This tells me they are watching me and it puts a great burden to put on a false facade. I have tried answers like lousy, crappy, and they do not want to hear that. I just say ok. My oncologist is a sweet heart and she is very understanding. The doctor I saw at Mayo was exceptional and I only wish we could afford to be there under his treatment. However, my oncologist here is keeping in touch with Mayo as consultant. Isn't that wonderful that the doctors will share their knowledge. Yes, growing old has not been as I had anticipated but it has its good things also. This cancer is an interruption I could do without. Thanks again for responding I feel more normal now. May
I agree with you, May, about not always being able to be positive and cheery facing cancer ( in any form( as a "senior" I would be fooling myself and everyone if I acted as if everything is great.)
I am 77, diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of last year and so am still in the process of grieving the loss of my health.
Some days are terrific and if I wake up with no headache, no depression, no anxiety etc. I feel much much more cheerful all day. I never know, really, what it is that makes the day to day difference...
I am as honest with myself as can be and sure, there are many times when I opt to say "Fine, fine for now" to anyone who casually asks me "How are you?" The ladies who are going through similar times and I have an understanding to be candid. We find that more encouraging than a Pollyanna fib of "I AM JUST GREAT!". Because I'm NOT just great. I miss being able to do lots of things I used to do just a couple of years ago.
But my glass is more than half full with my dogs, grandkids who call and write,a fine oncologist right here in town. I am able to see rainbows.
I am a cancer survior of chondrosarcoma. The cancer came back twice and I had to have my leg removed. Well, that differently changed my life but not my spirit. I adapted the ways of doing things. I did have a slight period of approximately 10mins of feeling sorry for myself, but I have to much to do to sit and let life slip away. Please I know cancer comes with many faces,but keep positive thoughts, keep negativity away and enjoy life.
cancer survivor of 6 years and going on 86 years of age I, myself , don't feel affected by the cancer experience as much as the challenge of life's changing landscape; losing loved ones and being frequently perceived as an alien by the younger. For example, is there anything more insulting as being addressed as "young lady" or " 86 years YOUNG!" What a royal, patronizing favor!
You know as I read all the comments and are apprecitive of reading the survival rates and the upbeat attitudes I have to wonder if we are all being totally honest with each other. I am 76 and on my third bout of breast cancer the presemt one has mastisized to the bone and lungs. I am on xeloda as falsodex was not working. My point is while we go about with giving the impression is ok. It is not. Frequently, I will awaken with tears and during the day whle getting thru the side effects and acknowledging the fact that I am fighting for m life seems to be more realistic. Yes, I pray, keep busy and for most of the day keep a pretty normal routine. However, what I am trying to say is that it is normal to grieve some and to dread the next stomach upset. It is a long journey and being truthful to oneself is ok. Let me thank you for your stories of longevity though as they are uplifting. I just cannot be that way all the time. Anyone else experiencing these feelings?
I HAVE HAD 5 DIFFERENT CANCERS. STARTED WITH BREAST TO BONE AND FROM THERE. THREE OF THE 5 ARE OUT OF THE BLUE. HOW DO I AT 62 MAKE IT. ONE MOMENT AT A TIME AND A LOT OF PRAYER. IS THERE ANYONE ELSE WHO HAS HAD THIS MANY CANCERS? I HAVE A SUPPORTIVE FAMILY AND ENJOY WATCHING LIFE. WONDERFUL CLOSE FRIENDS ADD TO MY LIFE. AS I READ THE COMMENTS I WAS HAPPY TO SEE SO MANY ENJOYING LIFE AND EACH DAY WE HAVE. DO NOT LET C WORD GET YOU DOWN SO MUCH IS BEING DONE.
I'm now 78 & am 15 months into my 4th battle with major cancer. I seem to run on a 6 yr cycle. 1992 a LEIOMIO SARCOMA / SURGERY REMOVAL, 1998 stage 1A NSCLC left lung / SURGERY REMOVAL, 2004 stage 1A NSCLC right lung / SURGERY REMOVAL, 2010 stage 3A NSCLC right lung / chemo & radiation. Last 3 scans have shown me NED. Starting another 6 yr cycle sounds pretty good to me at this time. I am enjoying life to it's fullest & savoring every day.
My Mom had pancreatic cancer. She did her best when she surrounded herself with her "cheerleaders," and people that advocated clinical trials and hope, not as much from some community health care.
This is the first time I have seen any comments on cancer and age. It is about time. I am 80 years young and have metastatic breast cancer to lungs and bones. First diagnosed with breast cancer at age 70. Survived that for 7 1/2 years and then nearly 3 years ago the cancer metasticized. Am on my third treatment option -- xeloda --which has worked for nearly 2 years thanks to a very flexible oncologist who is willing to change dosages as needed. Side effects are distracting but I won't die from them so I ignore. But I am prepared for this to stop working at some point and we will go on from there. But -- I still work as leader of a union retiree group, am a violinist in a community orchestra, go to aerobics/cardio/weight training classes three times a week and travel whenever I can. For now, I refuse to allow the big "C" to determine how I live my life.
I feel appreciative at being able to live at 73 with more than a double edge sword (so to speak). Epilepsy since birth, migraine headaches since 13 years, emphysema for 10 years and Islet Cell Cancer of the Pancreas the last 4 years with chemobrain that took many abilities and Tuberous Sclerosis on the Brain that mixed things up more. I just have learned to take one day at a time, all of my medicines on time and my chemo daily. I am a male and it's difficult with no family, etc.
My husband was diagnosed with live cancer at age 75 July 2011. He is in treatment and the tumor is shrinking. The side effects are not good to live with but we take it one day at a time. He keeps busy, works 20 hours a week, does yard work. I don't have any words of wisdom. Just keep praying and doing the best you can.
I was diagnosed with breast and lung cancer at the same time when I was 64. Surgery, chemo and radiation followed. I recovered beautifully. At 71, feeling totally healthy, I was again diagnosed with breast cancer, this time in my other breast & caught early enough so that I "only" had radiation. A wise person once said, "...growing old is not for sissies." This is even truer for cancer patients. How do I live with this double dark cloud over my head, the spectres of a cancer return and the other travails of growing old? I understand that there are good days, good times and also that there are bad days and fearful moods. I concentrate on the moment and try to laugh a lot. And when negative emotions overtake me, I hunker down with good music, a good book or even "junk TV" till the mood passes & I can laugh again. I have no wise words other than that; the realities of life speak for themselves.I wish there were magic answers to make it easier but there aren't any...
I was diagnosed at age 65 (3 yrs ago) with BC and everything was very smooth until the cognitive and memory problems. I am still working full-time and altho my bosses have put up with this problem so nicely, I feel that I'm letting them down with my memory lapses. Some people call it Chemo brain but I am well done with Chemo. I wish there were more resources to help cope with this issue. I live no where near Mayo. Would appreciate any imput from other patients and/or caregivers on coping. My oncologist blames the traits on the Arimidex which I cannot stop taking, right?????
I was diagnosed with lung adenocarcinoma just after my 60th birthday. After 2 surgeries and chemotherapy, I am doing well at age 64. My only other health issue is RA. I certainly hope that clinical trials will embrace older cancer patients and that a positive approach to treatment of the older cancer patients will be pursued! I am active and I have a lot to live for!
Sanjanak, 60 is not old. When I was much younger, 50 seemed very old. Glad to hear your neighbour made it through treatment! Long life and good health to you, too.
My old neighbor got diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 60. But that dint affect her spirit in anyway. I must say she had a great will power. And whenever you see/meet her she would have a smiling face regardless of what she was going through.
And guess what she actually made it through cancer. I completely appreciate her will-power. Hats off to this lady.
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