What Causes Lung Cancer In The Elderly? What are the symptoms of lung cancer in older adults? How can cancer be avoided in older adults?

Lung Cancer Awareness Month: Cancer or tumour results from the uncontrolled multiplication and growth of specific cells in our bodies. These may be malignant or benign. Lung cancer is the most prevalent malignancy and causes more than 25% of all cancer-related deaths worldwide, which is higher than the mortality of breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer. The incidence of lung cancer increases with advancing age, with the highest incidence being in the 6th to 8th decade of life. More than 50% of cases diagnosed with lung cancer are beyond the age of 65 years, while 30% are over the age of 70 years. The median age for lung cancer diagnosis is between 64 and 70 years. With the worldwide population shift towards older generations and longer life spans, the incidence of lung cancer will probably increase in the coming time.

Primary lung cancer can be broadly classified into Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC). NSCLCs represent 85% of all lung cancer cases in the elderly, as in their younger counterparts. In addition, among the subtypes of NSCLCs, the incidence of Squamous cell carcinomas increases in the elderly. Age is a significant independent prognostic factor affecting the survival of patients. While surgery remains the treatment of choice for early-stage lung cancer, even in elderly patients, many of them are unsuitable for such an approach due to comorbidities or poor general status. Dr Nagarjuna Maturu, Consultant Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, shares symptoms, causes and tips to prevent lung cancer in the elderly.

What Are The Symptoms Of Lung Cancer In The Elderly?

  1. Swelling and prominent veins over the face and neck
  2. Wheezing or Stridor (Noisy Breathing)
  3. Cough that persists and worsens
  4. Pain or discomfort in the chest
  5. Unexplained weight loss
  6. Difficulty in swallowing
  7. Hoarseness of voice
  8. Blood in sputum
  9. Loss of Appetite
  10. Breathlessness
  11. Fatigue

In case of cancer metastasizing to other organs, symptoms of those organs may develop, such as bone pain, confusion, seizures, paralysis etc.

What Causes Lung Cancer In The Elderly?

The risk factors for developing lung cancer, such as smoking, exposure to radon, exposure to particle pollution etc., remain the same irrespective of age. However, with advancing age, there is a higher chance of the lung cells having repeated insults which may result in mutations leading to the development of lung cancer.

How To Prevent Lung Cancer In The Elderly?

  1. Avoiding smoke and fumes from burning biomass fuels
  2. Avoiding active and passive smoking
  3. Eating nutritious meals
  4. Exercising daily

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