When cancer is not your only health concern


Globally, millions of people suffer from more than one chronic illness. What should you know about managing a chronic illness alongside a cancer diagnosis? And, what is the link between your chronic illnesses and your cancer risk?

Certain serious health conditions are more common in adults over 65. These include:

  • High blood pressure 
  • Heart disease 
  • Lung disease 
  • Diabetes 
  • Kidney disease 
  • Arthritis 

The risk of developing any of these chronic illnesses increases with age and research conducted as part of the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index found that people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes were about twice as likely to have cancer as healthy people without these chronic illnesses. Researchers also found that people who had suffered a heart attack were nearly three times more likely to have a cancer diagnosis than those who hadn't. They also point out that while the link between these illnesses and cancer remains significant at all ages this doesn’t necessarily mean that any of these chronic illnesses cause cancer. What is known is that cancer and chronic conditions share many risk factors and may be interrelated. For example, smoking cigarettes is a risk factor for both heart attack and lung cancer. 

If you don’t see your doctor regularly or if there’s a chance that you may have a chronic illness as well as cancer, it’s essential to undergo a proper health assessment – a complete check of your overall health - before you start your cancer treatment. Knowing as much as possible about your health helps your team make sure your treatment plan is as safe and successful as possible. A health assessment often includes checking the following items: 

  • Your physical health 
  • How independent you are 
  • Your vision and hearing 
  • The medicine you use 
  • Any falls you may have had 
  • Your eating habits and weight 
  • Your emotional health 
  • Your bladder and bowel control. 
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