Importance of Preventive Care

Preventive care becomes more important as people age, and the U.S. population--with 41.4 million (in 2011), or 13.3% over age 65--is growing older by the minute! Because almost half of U.S. women over age 75 live alone, senior females, especially, need professionally guided preventive care.

During preventive care physicians' appointments, older adults can be quickly scheduled for regular screenings--such as mammograms, colonoscopies and the low-dose CT scans which detect lung cancer in those at high-risk who don't have symptoms. When cancers are found early, treatments are more likely to result in remission.

In addition, physicians can more easily educate about risk factors and early symptoms for a wide variety of senior maladies, including cancers, if senior patients visit at least every 6 months.

According to the American Cancer Society, "two out of three invasive breast cancers are found in women over age 55." Therefore, it's good for older females to understand, through preventive care, these breast cancer risk factors:

1) having close family members with the diagnosis,

2) having dense breast tissue which is "more glandular and fibrous than fatty,"

3) having started menstruation before age 12, and

4) having begun menopause after age 55.

As regards those with colon and rectum cancers, "9 in 10 are diagnosed by at least age 50." Pre-retirees and retirees who suspect they are susceptible should maintain preventive care schedules and receive information about the lifestyle choices, family backgrounds and cancer experiences that put them at high risk:

1) diets high in red and processed meats and low in fruits, vegetables and fiber,

2) obesity and inactivity,

3) "long-term smoking,

4) heavy alcohol use,

5) inherited gene defects (or family cancer syndrome),

6) Jewish, and of Eastern European descent, and

7) survivors of testicular cancer."

Those over 55 who've "quit smoking in the last 15 years and had/have smoked at least one pack a day for at least 30 years" should follow preventive care guidelines and get a low-dose CT Scan--even if they don't exhibit lung cancer symptoms. The American Cancer Society has emphasized that, "80% of lung cancer deaths are attributable to smoking," whether through low-tar and light cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Other important risk factors, which older adults should know, are:

1) proximity to second-hand smoke (which increases risk by 30%),

2) workplace exposure to asbestos fibers, and to chemicals and minerals like "arsenic, cadmium, silica, vinyl chloride, chromium, coal products and chloromethyl ethers, and

3) "inhaled diesel exhaust." Mesothelioma--a cancer that "starts in the pleura, the lining around the lungs"--also results from asbestos exposure.

If you are over age 55 and have a family history of--or risk factors for--any of the above-described cancers, contact us for preventive care.

Importance of Preventive Care

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Cambridge, MA