IT’S?ONE?of the downsides of an aging population. Concern for Baby Boomers looms over the coming decades as America’s largest generation ages to a stage where cancer is most prevalent.
Currently, more than 60 percent of all malignant cancer diagnoses in America belong to people ages 65 or older — a segment of the population that continues to grow. Indeed, the number of people age 65 and older — currently about 36.8 million — is expected to double by the year 2030.
Now more than ever, prevention, accurate screening and treatment of cancer are critical for Baby Boomers and their families.
“The coalescence of three factors has the potential to create one of the biggest public health problems our country has faced in decades,” said Keith M. Bellizzi, a cancer survivorship researcher and assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of Connecticut. “These are: the aging of the baby boomers, the age sensitive nature of cancer, and the increased survival for those diagnosed with cancer.”
There are several things to consider for aging Boomers, their families and their doctors:
∫ Screening: Incomplete diagnoses are common for the elderly when it comes to cancer because there are so many sicknesses and factors to consider. Seniors should make sure that their screening process is thorough and complete.
∫ Prevention: If prevention is possible, it should always precede treatment. Nonetheless, the medical community continues to rely on treatment more heavily, due to a lack of research solving problems with prevention.
∫ Treatment: A Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA) is recommended for determining which older cancer patients would not be harmed by treatment (for example, chemotherapy) and which patients would avoid complications more readily with palliative care. The opinion of the family is paramount in these cases.
Within the medical community, Bellizzi said there is growing consensus between researchers and clinicians for the necessity of a multidisciplinary approach to fighting and treating cancer. Only then will all of the angles of this complex issue be able to be fully explored.
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