Cancer in old age definition cancer types symptoms

Topics Cancer in old ageMedical experts summarize more than 200 diseases under the term "cancer. In some cases, they differ greatly from one another, u. a. on the basis of symptoms, treatment options and courses. Knowledge about the different types of cancer continues to increase. Research and science provide important findings so that cancer can be detected and treated at an early stage.

Cancer can occur at any age. However, most of those affected are already in retirement age when the doctor makes the diagnosis. gives you answers to questions about cancer in old age, explains the difference between tumor and cancer types, and provides an overview of possible cancer symptoms.

Cancer in old age: definition, types of cancer& Symptoms

Table of contents

Cancer: Definition

According to the Cancer Information Service of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), cancer is a disease that occurs when healthy cells in the body change. They begin to multiply uncontrollably and destroy healthy tie in the process. The reason for this is damage to the genetic material in the cell. Cancer cells do not perform any function in the body. Uncontrolled cell growth causes lumps and growths called "tumors" to form. When tumors grow into healthy, surrounding tie, they are referred to as "malignant" tumors – cancer (s. Source 1).

What is the difference between benign and malignant tumors??

In general, lumps, swellings and growths that are found in the body are called tumors. But not every tumor automatically means cancer.
Cancer involves malignant tumors. With the help of the following table, you can distinguish the main characteristics of benign and malignant tumors.

Only malignant tumors are called cancer (s. Source 1).

Carcinogenesis – growth of a malignant tumor in process: the cancer cells (purple) grow into the surrounding tie and form stolons.

What are the tumor types?

Tumors are divided into different types. In the following list you will find an overview of tumor types with examples of. The tie from which the benign or malignant tumor has arisen is decisive for the classification. To determine this tie of origin, it is usually necessary to take a tie sample. This is then examined in more detail in the laboratory.


In a carcinoma, the cells of the inner and outer Organ surfaces as well as the Glandular tie. The organ surface inside the body includes all mucous membranes, z. B. the gastric mucosa. The external organ surface means the skin.

Carcinomas are the most common type of cancer, accounting for around 80 % of all cases. Carcinomas include z. B. lung cancer (bronchial carcinoma), colon cancer (colorectal carcinoma) or breast cancer (mammary carcinoma). Pancreatic cancer (pancreatic carcinoma) is considered one of the most aggressive carcinomas.


Sarcomas originate in the cells of the connective and supporting tie. These include fatty tie, muscles, tendons, bones, cartilage, vascular and nerve cells.

A malignant tumor of the fatty tie is called a z. B. Liposarcoma, a malignant tumor on the bone (colloquially "bone cancer") is called osteosarcoma.


Blastomas are tumors that are characterized embryonic tie during the Organ development form. Mostly discovered in early childhood.

They occur depending on the body site z. B. as nephroblastoma in the kidney or in the liver as hepatoblastoma (s. Source 1).

lymphomas and leukemias

Lymphomas and leukemias develop in the hematopoietic system.

Lymphomas occur mostly in lymph nodes, but also in bone marrow and spleen. Leukemias (blood cancers) are malignant cancers of the bone marrow that interfere with normal blood formation (s. Source 3).

Common& rare cancers

According to the German Cancer Registry, in 2016 around 492.000 cancers have been detected (excluding white skin cancer). The following types of cancer were the most common:

Breast cancer – 68.900 cases – 14 % of all new cases Prostate cancer – 58.800 cases – about 12 % of all new cases colon cancer – 58.300 cases – about 12% of all new cases Lung cancer – 57.500 cases – about 12 % of all new cases (s. Source 4) Cancer is predominantly a disease of older age. The incidence of cancer – and therefore the risk of developing cancer – increases with age, especially after age 65. The age of life (s. Source 5).

Brighter or. white skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. In 2016, nearly 230.000 times white skin cancer is detected – in addition to the 492.000 cancers. In cancer statistics, this type of cancer is usually not taken into account. This is due to v. a. that it contributes only very slightly to cancer mortality. The survival rate for white skin cancers is the highest among all cancers.

When is a cancer considered rare?

According to a European definition, the rare cancers such cancers, which include less than 6 in 100 per year.000 individuals of the European population. Most often it is a rare subtype. The European network RARECARENet has published a list of 198 different rare tumors. This includes e.g. vascular sarcomas or eye tumors (s. Source 6).

However, rare can also mean…

– the tumor is not that rare, but has grown on an unusual organ or tie. – the type of cancer is more common, but that individual solutions must be found in combination with other pre-existing conditions. – the tumor in a particular life situation, z. B. During pregnancy, is discovered (s. Source 7). The data from the Center for Cancer Registry Data (ZfKD). The Society of Epidemiological Cancer Registries in Germany e. V. (GEKID) from 2016 show that ..

1. Breast cancer accounts for almost 30 % of all new cancer cases in women in Germany. On average, women diagnosed with breast cancer are 64 years old. 2. Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer among women in Germany, accounting for around 11 percent of all cases. The mean age of onset here is 76 years. 3. Lung cancer is the third most common cancer among women in Germany, accounting for about 9 percent of all cases. The average age of onset is 69 years.

Excluded from the statistics is light skin cancer (s. Source 8). According to the Center for Cancer Registry Data (ZfKD). The Society of Epidemiological Cancer Registries in Germany e. V. (GEKID) was found among men in Germany in 2016 ..

1. Prostate cancer is diagnosed most frequently, accounting for around 23% of all new cancer cases. The average age of men diagnosed with cancer was 72 years. 2. Lung cancer diagnosed at around 14. Men are slightly more likely to develop lung cancer in percentage terms and are on average one year older than women at diagnosis, i.e. 70 years old. 3. Colorectal cancer found third most frequently, at around 13. On average, patients are 72 years old at diagnosis.

Again, light skin cancer is not included in the statistics (s. Source 8).

Whether it's an accident, illness, nursing care or even death, there are many situations that can prevent us from communicating our own decisions. Therefore Precautionary documents important for everyone, regardless of age.

– In a Living will decide for yourself which medical measures should be taken. You decide what will happen to you if the worst comes to the worst. – In a Health care proxy determine who should act on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

Symptoms& Signs of cancer

At the beginning, cancer often does not cause clear symptoms. For this reason, the timely. Regular cancer screening so important for early detection. When the first signs appear, they are often nonspecific and could also indicate another disease. It is then important to take action and see a doctor. For most cancers, the chances of cure with cancer therapy increase considerably if they are detected and treated at an early cancer stage.

Important note Warning signs of cancer

The German Cancer Society has published warning signals that can indicate a possible cancer (s. Source 9). If you notice one or more of these changes in your body, you should make an appointment with your doctor!

General cancer symptoms

Common signs of cancer, such as z. B. Paleness or fever, may indicate other diseases. Common symptoms include z. B. neurological abnormalities such as paralysis, speech and coordination disorders, and seizures. Persistent loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss should also be taken seriously as symptoms.

Signs of cancer of the head and neck

Signs of cancer affecting the head and neck can occur singly or in combination. Symptoms should v. a. should be clarified by a doctor if they are unusual. These include bspw. new-onset headaches, unusual nosebleeds or sudden visual disturbances.

Signs of cancer of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems

A doctor should clarify the cause if you have a persistent or altered cough, constant coughing, bloody sputum when coughing, chronic hoarseness or shortness of breath. You should also be examined if you experience chest pains or tightness, as well as palpitations.

Cancer signs of the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts

If heartburn, a feeling of fullness, abdominal pain or flatulence occur, we feel unwell. However, if these signs persist with you over a longer period of time, these supposedly harmless but unpleasant symptoms should in any case be examined by a doctor. Blood in the stool, pain during defecation or urination are signs that can also indicate other diseases. For this reason, it is important to have their cause clarified. Cancer symptoms can be manifold. Not always be clear. Therefore, it makes sense to take advantage of the preventive examinations. The costs for the Screening for colorectal cancer are covered by statutory and private health insurance companies. The statutory screening program includes the following services:

From the age of 50. up to the 54. year of life: Chemical stool test (annually)
from the age of 55. age: chemical stool test (every 2 years), colonoscopy (every 10 years)

Cancer symptoms in men

Similar to the urinary tract symptoms above, male sufferers should see a doctor if they have difficulty starting to urinate – or they can't urinate despite having a full bladder. An unusually weak or interrupted urine stream, blood in the seminal fluid and a hardened or enlarged testicle can also indicate a disease. It must be clarified in each individual case for what reason these events occur.

From the age of 45. Year of life men are entitled to a skin cancer screening as part of prostate cancer screening annual palpation examination of the prostate and external genital organs for z. B. early detection of prostate cancer. The costs of the preventive examinations are borne by the statutory and private health insurances.

Cancer symptoms in women

Palpable lumps or hardening in the breast or a changed nipple can be signs of cancer. Unusual bleeding after sexual intercourse or during menopause as well as spotting between menstrual periods should be examined by your doctor. The statutory services for the early detection of cancer in women, which are covered by health insurance, are as follows:

Women from the age of 20. Gynecologist the reproductive organs. Makes a cell smear of the cervix (so-called. Pap smear). Women over the age of 30. year of life: The annual palpation examination at the
Early detection of breast cancer and instructions for independent examination of the breasts are available to women from the age of 30. year of life as a health insurance benefit. Women from the age of 35. year of life: In addition to the annual examination, women can have a test every 3 years for
human papillomavirus (HPV) can claim this as a health insurance benefit. Women between the ages of 50 and 69 inclusive: Every 2 years a Mammography screening be claimed as a statutory health insurance benefit.

Possible signs of cancer affecting the skin

Signs that affect the skin can be seen externally in many cases: Unusually mottled and reddened palms, jaundice or liver spots and warts that change in size, shape and color are symptoms to be clarified.

However, there are also skin changes that are not immediately visible: Nodules and hardening of the skin and mucous membrane are i. d. R. palpated. Persistent itching and not resp. Poorly healing wounds are for those affected v. a. noticeable.

The costs for a Skin cancer screening examination (sog. skin cancer screening) is provided for insured persons from the age of 35. age every 2 years covered by health insurance. Individual health services (so-called. IGeL services) are excluded as special services from being. The skin on the entire body is examined. This examination may be performed by dermatologists as well as general practitioners who are authorized to do so by the Kassenarztliche Vereinigung (KV).

cancers on gives you an informative overview of individual types of cancer that occur primarily in old age:

Frequently asked questions

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease that occurs when healthy cells in the body change and begin to multiply out of control. In the process they destroy healthy tie. The reason for this is damage to the genetic material in the cell. These are then cancer cells that do not perform any functions in the body. Nodes and growths (tumors) develop, which grow into the healthy surrounding tie or spread to other places in the body (metastases). One speaks also of "malignant" tumors.

How does cancer manifest itself?

Cancer often does not produce clear symptoms at the beginning. This is why cancer screening is so important for early detection. When the first signs appear, they are often unspecific and could also indicate another disease.

Which cancers are most common in old age?

In women breast cancer and in men prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in old age. These are followed by colorectal cancer and lung cancer.

How many types of cancer are there?

There are over 200 different types of cancer.

Is there benign cancer?

No. There are benign tumors that are not to be equated with cancer. They are characterized z. B. due to a slower growth rate from. Do not form metastases in the body. are characterized by slower growth and do not form metastases in the body. When talking about cancer, malignant tumors are meant, which multiply uncontrollably and destroy surrounding tie.

How many people have cancer?

According to the German Cancer Registry, in 2016, approximately 492.000 cancers detected. Except white skin cancer.

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