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Top 3 Common Cancers Among The Elderly and What Can You Do To Help

cancer health screening for elderly

Image from National University Health System

People over the age of 65 have a 11-fold increase in cancer risk.

According to the Singapore Cancer Society, 1 in 4 people may develop cancer in their lifetime, with elderly of aged 65 and above having a higher risk. The good news is, when cancer is found early, treatment is more likely to work.

When caring for your aging parents, early detection is vital to stop cancer before it becomes a serious issue.

Read on to find out how to recognise the warning signs for the top 3 cancers among the elderly in Singapore!

1. Colorectal cancer (Male & Female)

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in Singapore, affecting both males and females. If detected early, colorectal cancer can be one of the most preventable and treatable cancers.

Although colorectal cancer at its early stage often has no symptoms, the common symptoms in its later stage may include:

  • Changes in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation

  • Presence of blood in stools

  • Persistent abdominal discomfort such as cramps, gas or pain

  • Anemia (a low red blood cell count)

  • Presence of a lump in the abdomen

Colorectal cancer can be detected much earlier through regular health screening such as:

  • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): Recommended to be done yearly for those above the age of 50

  • Colonoscopy: Recommended to be done once every 10 years

2. Prostate cancer (Male)

Among ageing males, prostate cancer is the 3rd most common cancer. For an average healthy man, the risk of dying from prostate cancer is only 3%.

Nonetheless, prostate cancer can become dangerous if your ageing father suffers from fast-growing prostate cancer cells, which can spread to other organs beyond the prostate gland.

Some of the warning signs of prostate cancer include:

  • Frequent urination, especially at night

  • Difficulty in urinating

  • Pain or burning sensation during urination

  • Decreased force in the stream of urine

  • Blood in the urine or semen

  • Bone or back pain

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Weakness or swelling of the lower limbs

  • Lumps on the prostate gland

Currently, screening for prostate cancer is only recommended for individuals who are interested in getting an early diagnosis. For males aged 50 and above and have a family history of prostate cancer diagnosed below 60 years of age, it is recommended for you or your aging father to carry out a PSA (Prostate-specific antigens) Test to screen for prostate cancer.

3. Breast cancer (Female)

For the females, breast cancer is the most common cancer. While all women are at risk, the chances of developing it increases with age.

However, with early detection, the chance of surviving breast cancer increases.

Some of the warning signs of breast cancer include:

  • Weight gain, especially after the menopause

  • New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)

  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin

  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area

  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood

  • Any change in the size or shape of the breast

  • Pain in any area of the breast

For your ageing mother above the age of 50, it is recommended to carry out Mammogram Screening once every 2 years. This helps to detect cancerous lumps even before they can be felt with the hand. Besides going for Mammogram screening, the Singapore Cancer Society also recommends females to carry out monthly breast self-examination.

With proper routine health screenings and checkups, the risk of developing cancer can be minimised.
It is important for you to learn to take note of vital warning signs for early detection of cancer in your ageing parents. Head to Screen For Life (SFL) to check for your elderly parents eligibility for subsidized screening!

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