The leading cause of death worldwide, identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is cancer. With nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, approximately 70% were older adults, specifically those aged 65 or older. Notably, this number can be greatly reduced. One-third of cancer cases can be cured if detected early and treated properly. Better prevention, early detection and treatment can save more lives each year.
This call for better treatment is the priority and theme of this year’s World Cancer Day on 4th February 2023 – #CloseTheCareGap. Christina Loh, Head Nurse at Allium Healthcare shares more on how we can mitigate and treat cancer, as well as provide better care for older adult patients.
Mitigate your risk of cancer
In Singapore, cancer has been on the rise with 80,753 cases reported from 2016 to 2020. There are more than 100 different types of cancer, and the three most common ones* for males are colorectal (16.5%), prostate (15.9%), and lung (13.6%); for females are breast (29.7%), colorectal (13%) and lung (7.9%).
But we can protect ourselves.
While it is true that cancer is more common among older adults as the risk of developing cancer increases with age, WHO highlights that 30% to 50% of cancer can be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing evidence-based preventive measures. These risk factors that contribute to the development of cancer, include genetics, lifestyle choices, and exposure to certain environmental factors.
Some types of cancer, such as breast and colon cancer, can be mitigated through early detection and screening, as well as by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as not smoking, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise. So, it’s not a fact of ageing, but a combination of various factors that lead to the development of cancer.
Fight against cancer
In our fight against cancer, advances in medical technology and cancer treatments have led to improved survival rates for many types of cancer. The extent of care given depends on the type of cancer, stage of the disease, and overall health of the patient.
Patients may receive a combination of treatments to achieve the best possible outcome. The several types of non-palliative services and programmes for cancer patients include:
- Surgery: Depending on the type and stage of cancer, surgery may be an option to remove the tumour and surrounding tissue.
- Radiation Therapy: This uses high-energy radiation to shrink tumours and kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: This uses drugs to kill cancer cells, it can be administered orally or intravenously.
- Immunotherapy: This is a type of treatment that helps the body’s immune system fight cancer cells.
- Targeted Therapy: This uses drugs that target specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.
- Clinical Trials: These are research studies that test new treatments and therapies for cancer.
- Rehabilitation: This includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy to help patients regain strength and function after treatment.
- Supportive Care: This includes counselling, support groups, and other resources to help patients and their families cope with the emotional and practical aspects of cancer.
In Allium, we provide rehabilitative care and supportive care to our residents and their family. We work closely with the team of doctors, nurses, and allied health to better coordinate the care required for each individual resident, and provide emotional and practical support.
(Left to right) Allium Healthcare’s Companion Suite and Gym
Better care for older adult patients and their families
During this challenging time, we must not forget to acknowledge the struggles faced by the primary caregivers of older adult patients – their family members. They are often experiencing a high level of stress as they witness their loved ones in treatment. In addition, they are bogged down with self-doubt over providing quality care with no prior professional training.
This burden can be lessened. Older adult patients, together with their families, have the option to better navigate this challenging period by enlisting the help of professional care services such as Allium Healthcare. Built with state-of-the-art facilities for a pleasant stay, Allium provides specialised, personalised care with every step of the way.
Hence, there are three main reasons why you should consider professional care services:
First, cancer treatment can be complex and demanding. It is important that the patient receives the appropriate care and treatment from trained and experienced healthcare professionals.
Second, cancer can affect an older person’s physical and emotional well-being, and a healthcare professional can help manage symptoms and side effects of treatment, such as pain, fatigue, and depression.
Third, cancer care often involves multiple specialists, such as oncologists, radiation therapists, and other healthcare professionals, who work together to provide comprehensive care to the patient. Coordination of care is critical for elderly patients with cancer, so a healthcare professional can help coordinate all the care that the patient needs.
Hence, professional help provides better care for the older adult patient at every step of the way. It will improve the patient’s quality of life, help manage symptoms and side effects, and ensure that the patient receives the appropriate care and treatment.
As we shed light on Cancer on this day, let’s work towards this year’s theme of closing the care gap for older adult patients and #CloseTheCareGap.
Contributed by Christina Loh, Head Nurse at Allium Healthcare.
** https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/vaccination.htm#:~:text=The%20HPV% 20vaccine%20can%20prevent,can%20help%20prevent%20liver%20cancer
Images: Allium Healthcare and Envato