October brings the changing of seasons with vibrant foliage and everything pumpkin-spiced, but it’s also a time when we turn our attention to vital issues like breast cancer and elder care.
While breast cancer can impact individuals of all ages, seniors are at an elevated risk. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, “Almost one-half of the newly diagnosed breast cancers occur in women older than 65. Age is the most important risk factor for breast cancer.”
In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Comfort Home Care of Rockville, MD, explores the importance of early detection and regular screenings for breast cancer among seniors. We share common symptoms, shed light on breast cancer in men, and outline steps seniors can take to help reduce their risks.
The Crucial Role of Early Detection
Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in women worldwide, with the risk increasing as we age. As we get older, our bodies become more susceptible to various health issues, and breast cancer is no exception.
Early detection can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment and survival.
Regular screenings are essential for early detection. Mammograms are considered the gold standard for breast cancer detection and are recommended for women over the age of 50.
Regular mammograms can identify tumors even before symptoms have become noticeable. Breast cancer in its early stages is typically less aggressive and more treatable. If you have not scheduled your annual mammogram, consider this your reminder.
Recognizing Common Symptoms of Breast Cancer
While routine screenings are necessary, it’s also vital to practice at-home examinations. If you discover any of the following, schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional:
- Breast Lumps – The most common sign of breast cancer is the presence of a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area. While not all lumps are cancerous, any new or unusual growth should be examined by your doctor.
- Changes in Breast Size or Shape – Seek medical attention for sudden changes in the size or shape of the breast, especially if it affects only one breast.
- Unexplained Breast or Nipple Pain – Do not ignore persistent pain or tenderness in the breast or nipple.
- Skin Changes – Investigate skin texture changes, such as redness, dimpling, or puckering.
- Nipple Changes – An inverted nipple, discharge, or the development of a scaly rash are cause for concern.
Remember, not all changes result in breast cancer but all changes need to be investigated by your doctor. Also remember, you may not show early signs of breast cancer so regular screenings for seniors are crucial.
Breast Cancer in Men
While breast cancer is predominantly associated with women, it can also affect men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in men.
Senior men should know the risks and symptoms like their female counterparts. Male breast cancer is often not diagnosed until later stages because it’s less common and infrequently screened for. The signs in men mirror those in women and may include a breast lump, nipple changes, or breast pain. If you notice any of these symptoms we encourage you to make an appointment with your doctor ASAP.
Reducing Breast Cancer Risk: Steps for Seniors
Prevention is always better than cure, and there are proactive measures seniors can take to lower their risk of developing breast cancer.
While some factors, such as genetics, cannot be changed, adopting a healthy lifestyle can make a significant difference. Here are some steps seniors can take to reduce their risk:
Maintain a Healthy Weight: Obesity is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause. Seniors should aim to maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
Limit Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Seniors should limit their alcohol intake, if not abstain altogether.
Don’t Smoke: Smoking is a known risk factor for many types of cancer, including breast cancer. If you smoke, seek support to quit.
Eat a Nutritious Diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can contribute to overall health and may help reduce breast cancer risk.
Regular Health Check-ups: Seniors should schedule regular check-ups with their healthcare providers. Discuss your breast cancer risk and screening options.
Know Your Family History: Understanding your family’s history of breast cancer can help your healthcare provider assess your risks. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may need more frequent or earlier screenings.
Early detection and regular screenings are essential for seniors in the battle against breast cancer. Awareness, education, and support from senior care providers can make a significant difference in the lives of seniors facing this challenging disease. As we embrace National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let’s remember that knowledge and early action are powerful tools in the fight against breast cancer.
Since 1999, Comfort Home Care of Rockville, MD, has provided essential support to seniors and their families in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. If you or a loved one need help with senior care, please contact us today.