Common Tests and Diagnoses for Cancer among Seniors

Mar 30, 2016

Common Tests and Diagnoses for Cancer among Seniors

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The concept of cancer is a scary thing no matter what age or stage of life someone is in, but it gets increasingly worry-some as people age. This is because individuals over the age of 50 make up for more than 2/3 of cancer patients in the United States. Keeping this in mind, if a senior is diagnosed with cancer, odds are that it is going to one of these five forms of the disease.

Common Cancers in Seniors: Test and Diagnoses

Lung Cancer

Simply put, lung cancer is the abnormal formation of cells in one or both lungs. Lung cancer is categorized into three types: Non-small Cell Lung Cancer, Small Cell Lung Cancer, and Lung Carcinoid Tumor. It is crucial that seniors know and understand all the signs and symptoms due to the fact that the average age for being diagnosed with lung cancer is 70, and only 10 percent of lung cancer diagnoses are in individuals under the age of 50. If a senior recognizes symptoms of lung cancer in himself or herself, they should visit a physician to have the necessary testing done.

Tests

Within each individual form of cancer, there are often many ways to test a patient to find out if they are suffering from the disease. Here are the three most common ways to test for lung cancer.

  • Imaging Tests – X-rays and CT scans are typically the first steps in diagnosing a patient with lung cancer. These imaging tests will reveal any unusual masses in the lungs.
  • Sputum Cytology – This testing method is unique to lung cancer. If an individual is suffering from this disease, they often have fluid in their lungs. This method tests that fluid.
  • Tissue Samples – Tissue samples, or biopsies, are typically the least common way to test for lung cancer because of its invasive nature.

Diagnoses

Following testing, an individual will be diagnosed. The test will show that an individual does not have lung cancer, or it will diagnose one of four stages.

  • Stage 1 – Cancer remains within in the lung and the tumor is two inches or smaller.
  • Stage 2 – Tumor exceeds two inches, and now involves other nearby structures.
  • Stage 3 – Tumor is very large and may affect other organs.
  • Stage 4 – Cancer has spread to other areas or organs throughout the body.

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is a form of cancer that’s very common among seniors. In fact, more than 90 percent of colon cancer cases in the United States are among individuals 50 or older. This cancer is typically formed in glands of the rectum and/or colon and it’s difficult to detect the symptoms until the cancer is in its later stages. Because of this, testing is extremely important for those at risk.

Tests

Unlike many other forms of cancer that can be tested in a variety of ways, there is only one way to test for colon cancer.

  • Colonoscopy – A colonoscopy consists of using a long tube with an attached camera to view the colon and rectum. Currently, this is the only sure way to test for colon cancer.

Diagnoses

Following the colonoscopy, the physician will either clear the patient or diagnose them with one of the four stages of colon cancer. These stages are:

  • Stage 1 – Cancer is in the lining of the colon, but has not spread through to the colon wall or rectum.
  • Stage 2 – Cancer has grown through the wall of the colon or rectum, but hasn’t yet reached the surround lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3 – Cancer hasn’t yet reached other parts of the body, but it has infected the lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4 – Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as organs.

Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is cancer with a low survival rate due to the fact that many of the symptoms are easy to miss early on. It is especially important that seniors do their best to recognize the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer because the average age of diagnosis is 69 years old. If a senior is worried about stomach cancer, there are tests that can be done.

Tests

It can be difficult to test for stomach cancer, but there are two primary ways to find out if an individual is suffering from this form of cancer.

  • Imaging Tests – Patients will have either CT scans or PET scans to determine if there are any abnormalities in the stomach area.
  • Upper Endoscopy – This consists of a small, thin tube with a camera attached being inserted down the throat of the patient and into the stomach. A biopsy can be collected if the camera finds any abnormalities.

Diagnoses

Following the imaging test or upper endoscopy, a patient may be diagnosed with one of the four stages of stomach cancer. These stages are:

  • Stage 1 – In this stage, the tumor is confined to the stomach lining.
  • Stage 2 – Cancer has spread to stomach wall muscles and into the surrounding lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3 – Cancer has spread through all of the layers of the stomach, as well as the surrounding lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4 – Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as organs.

Breast Cancer

While breast cancer is typically found in women, not only women are at risk of this disease. Seniors are especially at risk considering 80 percent of breast cancer cases are found in women over the age of 50, and 60 percent of those 80 percent are over the age of 65. It’s important that seniors are capable of recognizing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and get testing done when necessary.

Tests

Breast cancer screening has various methods, depending on the recommendation from the physician. Here are the five most common ways to test for breast cancer:

  • Breast Exam – A physician will check breasts and underarms for any inflamed tissue, lumps or other abnormalities.
  • Mammogram – This method is an X-ray of the breasts to determine if there are any obvious abnormalities.
  • Breast Tissue Sample – This is a biopsy that is typically performed only after something unusual has been detected, allowing for further testing.
  • Breast MRI – A patient is injected with dye and then given an MRI that can detect anything unusual.
  • Breast Ultrasound – Ultrasounds are typically used to differentiate between a lump that may be a tumor and a lump that may be a cyst.

Diagnoses

Upon completing the necessary testing required by a physician, the physician will give a diagnosis. The physician will either clear the individual or diagnose them at one of the four stages of breast cancer.

  • Stage 1 – Tumor is very small and has not spread outside of the breast or to surround lymph nodes.
  • Stage 2 – Cancer has spread from the breast to surrounding lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3 – Cancer has spread to the chest wall, as well as the skin of the breast, creating swelling and/or ulcers.
  • Stage 4 – Cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is cancer that is located in the prostate of men, which is located beneath the bladder. If this particular form of cancer is caught in its early or middle stages, it’s extremely curable. In fact, those diagnosed with prostate cancer have the highest survival rate of non-skin related cancers. If a senior is representing any of the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, he should get tested.

Tests

There are two primary ways to test for prostate cancer, and these two methods include:

  • Prostate Specific Antigen Test – This is a blood test that can detect abnormalities in the prostate.
  • Digital Rectal Exam – In this method, a physician will examine a prostate by inserting a finger into the rectum to detect any abnormalities.

Diagnoses

Following the testing, a physician will either clear the patient or diagnose them at one of the four stages of prostate cancer. Those stages include:

  • Stage 1 – In this stage, the cancer is secluded to a small area of the prostate.
  • Stage 2 – In this stage, cancer is more aggressive, despite the fact that it may still be confined to a small area.
  • Stage 3 – The cancer has spread to nearby tissues in this stage.
  • Stage 4 – Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as bones or organs.

Getting tested for cancer is a terrifying thing, especially when there is an increased likelihood that the individual will be diagnosed with the disease. Despite this, cancer is most treatable and curable when it is caught in its early stages. Don’t wait – get tested.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a GI cancer?

Gastrointestinal cancer is a broad term used to encompass all cancers of the gastrointestinal tract (digestive system). This includes cancers of the esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, bowel, and other areas.

See All Answers »

What are some of the signs of cancer?

The signs and symptoms of cancer differ depending on the what type and how severe the cancer is. For example, with lung cancers, you will find pain in the chest, chronic cough, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. However, colon cancer has a different set of symptoms including constant abdomen pain, blood in stool, constipation, and regular diarrhea.

If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of any type of cancer seek help from a doctor immediately.

See All Answers »

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