Primary bone cancer is never an easy diagnosis to cope with, and bone cancer in the elderly can be even more difficult. Seniors who are afflicted with cancer often have very different concerns and priorities than young adults. In many cases, their principal concern is losing independence and having to rely on others to perform the activities of daily life, like cooking, eating, and maintaining hygiene. This dependency can make feelings of isolation worsen into depression and anxiety, which can make treatment more difficult.
Primary Bone Cancer Outlook
The prognosis for primary bone cancer (bone cancer that originates in the bone as opposed to a cancer that metastasizes to the bone) in the elderly depends on the location of the cancer and its stage of development. More than 95% of patients with stage one primary bone cancer survive more than five years, and many are cured. Once in stage two, the rate of survival ranges from 40-60%, depending on the patient.
According to the American Cancer Society, the most common symptom of primary bone cancer is pain. This pain is the result of cancer cells expanding inside bone tissue and applying pressure to nerves inside the bones, which can gradually expose nerves, and lead to more pain. Other symptoms include unintended weight loss, fatigue, tenderness, and swelling. Although it’s often very hard to predict outcomes, there are several ways to tackle the management of cancer and maintain a high quality of life during every stage of treatment.
1. Keep a Pain Diary
The pain experienced by primary bone cancer patients can vary widely from person to person. For some, the pain is worst at night while resting. For others, the pain is better during periods of rest and more severe during activity. The fact that each person’s pain is different means that it’s particularly important to have excellent communication with your healthcare provider.
That’s why, according to the National Cancer Institute, many oncologists suggest keeping a pain diary to keep a record of the severity of the pain, its location, and whether it’s a sharp, dull or burning sensation. Preparing a detailed account of this information is one of the best steps you can take to help to ensure the most effective treatment and pain relief possible.
2. Stay Active
As the skeleton works against stresses applied to it, bones adapt and become stronger. For a person with healthy bones, moderate physical activities like walking and jogging are excellent ways to maintain bone health. With bone cancer in seniors, lower impact activities are often possible, including water aerobics.
Exercise has been shown to help improve quality of life, reduce stress, and provide more energy for tackling the day. Furthermore, exercise helps keep bones strong, however, bone cancer may increase your risk for fractures or breaks. While a little exercise can go a long ways, remember to consult your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.
3. Get The Right Nutrition
The human skeleton needs calcium for developing strong bone tissue — a process powered by vitamin D. Leafy vegetables and dairy products are often a good source of both. Additionally, high-protein, high-calorie diets are typically recommended before treatment. This includes milk, fish, eggs, poultry, butter, nuts, beans, and even sweets.
Some cancer treatments can affect your sense of taste and your body’s ability to process certain types of foods. Counteracting this effect is often necessary to maintain a healthy body weight during treatment, and to keep energy levels sufficient for the activities of daily life. Many patients find that they have more energy eating smaller quantities of food more often, rather than having three large meals a day.
4. Find the Right Pain Medication
Last but not least, there are pain medications, which can be prescribed by your doctor. For moderate to severe pain, doctors can prescribe opioids like oxycodone and codeine. For burning, tingling, or numb pain, neuropathic pain medications may be available if prescribed by your doctor. For mild pain, over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen are generally effective methods for reducing the inflammation and swelling that cause pain. Before taking any pain medication, always be sure to consult with your doctor first, as he or she can best determine which medications will not conflict with any other prescription medications you are taking or affect any other health conditions you or your loved one may have.
Which of the above tips have you used when your loved one was diagnosed with bone cancer? Tell us in the comments below.