Breast Cancer Awareness for Seniors

October marks the beginning of many things—autumn, the holiday season, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The name was developed in 1985 to bring awareness to the most common form of cancer that affects women, as well as the importance of early detection. After decades of campaigning, the pink ribbon has become synonymous with October in the United States.

While the signs and symptoms are crucial for all ages to recognize, breast cancer awareness for seniors is especially important. Half of the newly diagnosed breast cancer cases, in particular, occur in women 60 years old or older. Those with a first-degree relative (such as a mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer have a doubled risk of developing the disease. And though not nearly as common at about one percent of all diagnoses, it is possible for men to be diagnosed with breast cancer as well.

It’s encouraging to see that mortality rates have been steadily declining since 2007, but it is still important that we focus on detection and prevention. Here is what you can do.

Breast Cancer Awareness for Seniors

What are the major risk factors of breast cancer?

In most cases, there isn’t just one thing that causes the disease. Several risks can contribute to your likelihood of developing breast cancer—some of which you can’t control, while others you can.

Risk factors you can’t control:

  • Aging—a woman’s risk of breast cancer increases with age
  • Genetic mutations—certain inherited mutations to certain genes (BRCA1 and BRCA 2) lead to a higher risk of both breast and ovarian cancer
  • Personal history of breast cancer and other non-cancerous diseases—women who have breast cancer are more likely to develop it again. Those with non-cancerous breast diseases are also at a higher risk.
  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer—if a first-degree relative, or several more distant family members, experience breast cancer, the risk of developing the disease is much higher
  • Having dense breasts—breasts with more connective tissue than fatty tissue can make it harder to see tumors on a mammogram
  • Previous radiation therapy treatment—those who had radiation therapy for another condition before the age of 30 have a higher risk of breast cancer
  • Reproductive history—those who started menstrual periods before 12 and/or menopause after age 55 are exposed to hormones longer, which raises the risk

Risk factors you can control:

  • Physical activity—women who are not physically active have a higher risk of developing the disease.
  • Weight after menopause—those who are overweight or obese following menopause are at a higher risk
  • Taking hormones—if possible, avoid taking certain forms of hormone replacement therapy (specifically with estrogen and progesterone). Certain oral contraceptives also raise the risk.
  • Drinking alcohol—those who drink more alcohol have a higher rate of breast cancer
  • Smoking—even second-hand smoke can put post-menopausal women in danger. Find local resources to help you quit.

Early detection

When discussing breast cancer awareness for seniors, it is important to mention the screening process. While it certainly isn’t fun, regular screenings help detect the disease easier. When caught early, breast cancer has a 99% five-year survival rate. The longer it goes on, the more dangerous it is.

So, do not skip a scheduled exam. Women over 55 should have a mammogram every two years. Those with a family history may need to have them more often as prescribed by their doctors. MRIs may be used for those with higher risks. You should also regularly examine your breasts for any changes in shape, color, or feeling. This will help you detect changes and report them to a doctor sooner.

Common symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Change in size or shape of the breast
  • Discharge
  • Pain in any area of the breast
  • A new lump in the breast or underarm

How to support others

With this disease being one of the primary cancers that affect women, the chances are quite high that a friend or a family member will develop the condition. When that occurs, you’ll likely wonder how to show your support.

Options for practical support, such as helping with housekeeping and meals, might come to mind. Your emotional support is just as valuable. They are going through a difficult trial. Having you there to lend a helping hand or ear will make a world of difference to their morale.

You can also show your support by donating to the cause. Wear a pink ribbon, consider joining charity walks, organize a fundraiser, or donate to a trustworthy organization. No matter what it is, your loved one will appreciate the gesture.

Home caregivers in Illinois

While undergoing treatments for breast cancer, you will find that things aren’t as easy as they once were—especially as a senior citizen. Things like personal care, meal preparation, and light housekeeping are suddenly exhausting. In these cases, the assistance of an at-home caregiver is more essential than ever.

Home Care Powered by AUAF has been supporting seniors and their families for nearly 30 years. Our highly trained caregivers do everything in their power to ensure that their clients receive the best treatment possible. If you, or a loved one, might benefit from the assistance of a caregiver, call us at 773-274-9262.

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