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Cancer And Dementia – Is There A Link?

We’re all human – at least we hope you are if you’re reading this! And as humans, we’re all susceptible to various diseases, particularly as we get older. One of the more common is dementia, which affects more than 55 million people worldwide, with more than 10 million new cases diagnosed every year. But what if we told you there was some positive news? That there’s a link between cancer and dementia, and despite the severity of both illnesses, the outcome is good.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is the umbrella term for a range of illnesses that impair your ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interface with everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and well-known form of dementia, but there are many other diseases that can fall into the category too, including vascular dementia (which is linked to strokes), Lewy body dementia, and fronto-temporal dementia.

Dementia typically affects people over 65 years old, but it can strike in younger people too. Symptoms of dementia include having problems with memory, attention, communication, reasoning and judgment, and problem-solving.

Dementia might be common, but it isn’t an inevitable part of ageing. However, if you have a family history of dementia, poor heart health or a traumatic brain injury, your risk of developing it does increase. This is why it’s so important to understand the signs of dementia developing early, so that proper treatment can be started.

What Does Cancer Have To Do With It?

You might be asking why we’re talking about dementia, especially as we’re a cancer charity. Well, over the past few years studies have been done into dementia, and they’ve found something quite interesting. If a person has cancer and survives, they are significantly less likely to develop dementia.

This is called an inverse association, which essentially means that there is a link between the two, and when something happens to one, the opposite happens to the other. One goes up, the other goes down, and vice versa. In this case, if someone gets cancer, they are 21% less likely to develop dementia later in their life. These results have been duplicated time and time again, and now they are looking into what it is that creates that link. Researchers are h

oping that, if they find that link, they can develop new preventative treatments for both cancer and dementia. It’s still in the early stages, but if successful, this could be a huge piece of positive news for humanity.

Caring For Someone With Cancer And Dementia

Of course, the odds can’t be in everyone’s favour, and while it’s fairly rare, someone with dementia can then develop cancer. This is particularly challenging, as someone with dementia may not understand the diagnosis, how it will affect them, or the emotional turmoil it can create. They may also not have the capacity to consent to treatment, be reluctant to take medication, or not understand why they need to be taken to the hospital so often.

The treatments for someone with both cancer and dementia can be the standard cancer treatment options. However, some people with dementia may need modified treatments that are less intense or invasive to work alongside their other treatments. This may mean they spend less time in the hospital or get fewer treatments. But if the patient doesn’t have the capacity to make decisions due to the dementia, then you, or their medical power of attorney, might have to make those decisions for them. If that’s the case, a doctor will talk to you about what to expect, the pros and cons of each treatment, and what they feel is the best option. It can be scary to make those sorts of decisions, especially for someone else, but you won’t be alone in the process.

If you’re struggling with a cancer diagnosis or know someone who is, it can be an incredibly difficult time. There are a lot of stresses and unknowns, and life can feel a little upside-down. At Jill's Fundraising Journey we know how that feels, which is why we now work to provide free holidays for anyone affected by a cancer diagnosis. If you want to apply for your free holiday and spend some quality time together, click here, or contact us if you have any questions.


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