Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the US, impacting millions of people each year. But it’s important to know—breast cancer in seniors is not uncommon but often overlooked. It’s essential to understand how to support older adults with a diagnosis and watch for potential warning signs on your own.
As part of our Vineyard Senior Living team’s effort to support awareness this month, here are five essential things to know about breast cancer in seniors:
1. Early Signs of Breast Cancer
With any type of cancer, it’s always better to detect it earlier rather than later. Identifying cancer in seniors early on is especially important. And though every person’s scenario can be different, the most common indication is one or more lumps on the breast.
You can discover lumps through a routine mammogram screening or by regular self-exams. They’re rarely noticeable to the naked eye, which is why both types of exams are so critical. Other early warning signs of breast cancer include:
- Breast pain
- Skin changes
- Changes in appearance
The best way to recognize breast cancer in seniors is to keep regular exams with your doctor. A yearly exam can make the difference between catching cancer early and only finding it after it has entered an advanced stage.
2. Breast Cancer Can Occur in Men and Women
While breast cancer is more common in women, it occurs in men, too. Doctors find diagnoses across all male demographics, but certain risk factors increase a man’s chance of getting breast cancer, such as genetic mutations.
Specific inherited genes make a diagnosis more likely. And sometimes, diseases like liver disease and Klinefelter syndrome also create a higher risk. Finally, men who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer than men who aren’t.
Though many factors impact our health, these risks are a good reminder of the importance of taking care of your body— a healthy diet and exercise are valuable habits to develop.
3. Treatment for Breast Cancer in Seniors
Breast cancer is one of the most studied types of cancer and one of the most treatable. Several successful treatments include hormone-blocking treatment, chemotherapy, and surgery to remove a tumor or a mastectomy. Treatment can even consist of more than one of these methods. Doctors perform several tests and assessments to determine which course of treatment is most likely successful for a particular individual.
While research on treatment for older adults is still ongoing, older people are generally given the same treatment options as their younger peers. However, there may be some exceptions to account for other health issues or complications.
4. How to Support an Elderly Loved One Through Treatment
Going through cancer treatment at any age is difficult. The uncertainty, stress, and uncomfortable side effects of breast cancer in seniors can often become overwhelming.
One of the best ways to support older adults through treatment is to ensure those diagnosed and their families are educated and aware of what is happening. Make sure they talk to their doctor regularly to understand their care plan and know what to expect as their treatment plan progresses.
Another great way to support older adults through treatment is simply being present. Having someone alongside them during therapy, doctor’s appointments, and aftercare can go a long way toward ensuring their ultimate success.
5. How to Support a Breast Cancer Survivor
Surviving breast cancer is a monumental accomplishment, but it’s often not the end of the road for older adults. You can support a survivor by helping them make it to all of their follow-up appointments and stick to their prescribed recovery routine. You can also show that you care by listening and being there when they need a shoulder to lean on.
Survivors often experience a range of heavy emotions during recovery, and having a trusted friend or family member to listen can make a world of difference.
Healthy Lifestyles at Vineyard Senior Living
At Vineyard Senior Living, we know the toll that breast cancer in seniors can take on our residents and their families. Whether an older adult has just been diagnosed or is in recovery, our compassionate staff is there to offer knowledge, guidance, and support. Contact us today to learn more about our communities and our services.