Corticosteroids may play a useful role in cancer treatment. Since they are strongly anti-inflammatory they are sometimes prescribed to reduce swelling and pain. They may be used with other drugs to reduce nausea and vomiting created by chemotherapy treatment. They may also increase appetite. In a few types of cancer, specific corticosteroids are sometimes used with or without chemotherapy drugs to destroy cancer cells. It's important to note that while corticosteroids can be an important aspect of treatment in some types of cancer, they may not be helpful in all types.
Some older individuals will experience side effects that are more pronounced. Older adults have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure or osteoporosis (a disorder in which the bones lose mass and density) when taking corticosteroid drugs. Women, in particular, are at risk for this condition. However, recent research has suggested that the risk of non vertebral fracture in older adults is not higher in the short term when inhaled corticosteroid treatments are used.
Depending on the patient’s individual situation, older adults may be advised to undergo bone density screening, a test that can help detect osteoporosis. Patients at risk may also benefit from taking calcium supplements, undergoing hormone replacement therapy and exercising regularly.
Patients over the age of 50 also risk the development of cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) and glaucoma (a group of diseases that can damage the optic nerve, resulting in vision loss). For this reason, older adults taking high doses of corticosteroids may be advised to undergo eye examinations.