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Cancer: A Death Sentence for the Elderly?

Cancer Screening: Can it save my life?

Cancer Warning Signs Page #1

Cancer Signs Page #2

Cancer Diagnosis

Cancer Treatment Page #1

Cancer Treatment Page #2

10 Lessons Cancer Taught Me

10 Lessons Cancer Taught me Page #2

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Health Insurance 101 for Senior Citizens 

Depression among the Elderly

Long term care insurance: What is it really?

Medicare: How will it help me?

Nursing Homes: What critical information should I know?

Personal Safety for Grandma and Grandpa

Prescription Medication: You have to get it right

Social Security: Can I get it now?

Senior Housing Options

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Cancer treatment: What are the essential guidelines? 

Cancer treatment guidelines: Page #1 

In many cases, cancer treatment may mean the complete elimination of cancer from the body, or a cure.  In other cases, cancer treatment aims to retard the growth of the tumors so that an individual may live a longer life.  Sometimes, treatment may even cause more harm than good and the main focus may be to reduce symptoms that would essentially cause pain and suffering, or what is referred to as palliative cancer treatment. 

Most people are aware that the earlier a cancer is found, the more likely it is to be cured.  Advanced cancers and recurrent cancers after initial treatment frequently indicate that the cancer has spread.  Cure then will be much less likely. 

The main forms of cancer treatment are surgery, radiation and drugs.  Surgery is used when it is possible to completely or partially remove the cancer, so that other therapies may have a higher probability for success.  Also, surgery may be used to stop bleeding or relieve pressure on a particular structure or organ of the body. 

Radiation therapy is usually directed at a tumor to destroy or reduce its size.  However, not all cancers respond to radiation treatment. 

There are several types of drugs that are used in cancer treatment.  Chemotherapy involves drugs that are used to kill cancer cells.  Chemotherapy drugs work through various mechanisms targeting unusual aspects of the cancer cells.  However, chemotherapy drugs also kill normal cells as well, and cause many side effects that make people feel extremely ill.  Other drugs suppress hormones that stimulate cancers to grow and thereby suppress cancer growth.  Some of the newer drugs attack cancerous cells in unusual ways resulting ultimately in their death.  An example of these types of medications is imatinib for chronic mylocytic leukemia.  This drug prevents leukemia cells from functioning through an attachment process which ultimately results in their death. 

Another cancer treatment is referred to as immunotherapy, which stimulates the immune system to attack cancer or uses antibodies that attach themselves to cancer cells.  These antibodies can be combined with chemotherapy drugs or even radioactive agents, so that the drugs may go exactly where they are needed, attacking the cancer cells. 

If an individual has other diseases or conditions, it may complicate their cancer treatment.  Heart failure or impaired kidney function are known to limit the choices in dosages of chemotherapy drugs, which are used to treat certain forms of cancer.  Chronic liver disease may also make the use of chemotherapy drugs more difficult by increasing the toxic side effects of some drugs.  Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can also limit the use of radiation that might otherwise be used to treat lung cancers, because of the harmful side effects of the radiation to lung tissue, which has already been damaged by the COPD.  However, cancer treatment is usually possible in spite of many of these other diseases and conditions.

Some information from The Merck Manual of Health of Aging 

Additional information and web page by Paul Susic M.A. Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate (Health Psychology) 


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