According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, colorectal cancer is the second most fatal form of cancer in the U.S. One out of every 20 Americans runs the risk of developing colon cancer and nearly 90% of all new diagnoses of colon cancer occur in people over the age of 50. Each year this disease, one that harms the lower intestinal tract and rectum, claims roughly 50,000 lives.
Understanding Colon Cancer
Fortunately, treatment is successful in almost all cases where early detection occurs. It is a sad reality, but most doctors agree that the main reason patients abstain from seeking medical help is out of fear of the colonoscopy screening itself, which is widely believed by the public to be extremely uncomfortable. While the test required to detect colon cancer is minimally invasive, there is a prevailing belief that this is untrue, one that has likely led to thousands of otherwise preventable deaths.
Colon cancer differs from most other diseases, namely those that affect elderly patients, in one crucial respect: both the diagnosis and treatment for the disease are the same for people of all ages. Screenings are typically overlooked in older adults, but research has shown that individuals aged 70 and over have equal survival rates as those in their youth, thus stressing the importance of regular screenings.
Helping Your Loved One: Coping with Senior Colon Cancer
If your loved one has been diagnosed with colon cancer, the best thing you can do is be there for them. The ability to conquer this disease requires mental, physical, and emotional well-being. If a colonoscopy detected the cancer in its early stages, the chances of a full recovery are high. Ask their doctor about which available treatment options they recommend, and clearly state any questions or concerns you may have for your loved one’s health.
Given the location and nature of the disease, patients with colorectal cancer typically have a difficult time eating and/or keeping food down. Nevertheless, it is important for their immune system to stay well-nourished. If your loved is unable to consume solid foods, try incorporating more liquids into their diet. Fruit and vegetable smoothies, juice drinks, and protein shakes are excellent sources of the vitamins and nutrients their body needs to fight the cancer, and will also help sustain their energy throughout the day.
Chemotherapy can be downright exhausting, but your doctor may encourage you to help your loved one to perform some form of daily exercise. If they are only capable of a brief walk each morning, this is much better than nothing at all. Adequate rest and recovery are indeed important, but a healthy body is what will determine how well a patient gets through treatment.
Do you have any stories around chemotherapy and dealing with it that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.