Published on October 16, 2015

Cancer risk increases with age, but Nazareth can help

Good things come with growing older.

senior patientsWisdom, life stories and senior discounts are just a few.

But aging also brings its share of challenges, including an increased risk of cancer.

If you’re 65 or older, that’s nothing to fear. But it is reason to stay alert.

Know the risk

According to the American Geriatrics Society, half of all U.S. cancers occur in people older than 65.

“Cancer is a disease of aging, and we expect to see more of it going forward because the population is aging,” says Amy MacKenzie, MD, an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and geriatric oncologist at Mercy Hematology/Oncology at Nazareth Hospital.

Aging cells don’t always repair themselves and replicate correctly. That can result in mutations—and, ultimately, cancer.

Even so, you can lower your risk. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do. Other steps you can take include eating well, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and using sunscreen.

Stay vigilant

Of course, people who take every precaution sometimes get cancer too. That’s why screening tests are valuable.

“As you age, regular screenings, when appropriate, and checkups become even more important,” says Dr. MacKenzie. These tests can detect cancer early—often when it is easier to treat. And certain tests may catch “pre-cancer” before it becomes cancer.

“Talk to your doctor about which screenings are right for you,” Dr. MacKenzie advises. Weighing the risks and benefits may help you decide which tests make the most sense for you.

On your side

dr visitIf you find out you have cancer, keeping in contact with your healthcare team is crucial. It’s essential to openly discuss your expectations and concerns about the diagnosis. Talk with your physician about all the treatment options available to you. And ask how you can receive support and guidance during this time.

Nazareth Hospital offers a full range of cancer expertise and services, including those of Dr. MacKenzie. She’s trained to address older patients’ needs.

Many people often have multiple health problems and other challenges that may affect their treatment options. These might include financial difficulties or concerns about how they’ll find transport to get to their appointments.

Dr. MacKenzie looks at the big picture, helping patients find solutions and creating a plan tailored to each specific circumstance. “We’re not just treating a cancer,” she says. “We’re providing you with the exceptional treatment and compassionate care you deserve.”