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What Everyone Over Age 50 Needs to Know About Cancer

What Everyone Over Age 50 Needs to Know About Cancer

"Many people over 50 ignore the early warning signs of cancer. They believe there's nothing they can do about cancer, or maybe they're too old to do anything about it," says Hugo Hool, M.D., an oncologist with the Torrance Memorial Physician Network.

"However, there is something we can do about it, especially in the early stages, and treatment is very well tolerated, even by older seniors. The clinical benefit in those over the age of 70 is just as great as those under 70."

Advances in Cancer Treatment

Advances in cancer care over the last decade have made it easier and more comfortable to treat cancer at Torrance Memorial Medical Center's Hunt Cancer Institute.

"The misconception is that the science is slow to progress," says Dr. Hool. "But we have breakthroughs on a daily basis. Just five years ago our only choice was hormonal therapy or chemo for prostate cancer. Now we have amino therapy, multiple lines of hormonal therapy and a variety of chemotherapies and immunotherapy. We also have additional supportive therapies that make chemo more tolerable and improve patient quality of life."

Chances of successfully curing your cancer increase the earlier you seek treatment.

How to Diagnose Cancer

"I can't stress enough how important it is for you to visit your primary care physician to receive routine health screenings," says Dr. Hool.

During your regular visits with your primary care physician you should receive routine cancer screenings such as:

  • A fecal occult blood test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy or barium enema to detect colon cancer.
  • Mammography and a clinical breast exam to detect breast cancer in women.
  • A Pap test and pelvic exam to detect cervical and vaginal cancers in women.
  • A PSA blood test and digital rectal exam to detect prostate cancer in men.

If tests confirm that cancer is growing in the body, Dr. Hool and his colleagues stage and evaluate the cancer.

"Staging is basically identifying where the disease is and where it is not. Whether it is aggressive or not aggressive," says Dr. Hool. "Based on that information we create a treatment plan that is individualized for each patient."

In addition to routine visits to your doctor, Dr. Hool urges all seniors to watch for signs and symptoms of cancer.

"I would advise any senior to be on the lookout for fatigue, weight loss or lack of appetite. Any skin changes or discolorations, unusual bleeding or pain," says Dr. Hool. "Even a cough that does not go away over a period of time. Any sudden change in your health is cause for concern."

If you experience any of these warning signs of cancer, Dr. Hool encourages you to make an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms.

Preventing Cancer

Besides regular screenings, your biggest safeguard against cancer is improving your general health. Work with your doctors to control your blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight. Keeping each within healthy range as well as eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can dramatically reduce your risk of developing most cancers.

For more information, contact Hugo Hool, M.D. Oncologist Torrance Memorial Physician Network. 514 N. Prospect, Redondo Beach. 310-750-3300. Dr. Hool accepts THIPA patients.