My sister was diagnosed about a year ago with metastatic stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to her spine. This was the very first diagnosis. Originally they said that it was inoperable but they had her on Femera(?) for the bone cancer and hormone therapy for the breast cancer. Eventually the breast cancer was reduced and she had a lumpsectomy and they removed cancerous lymph nodes. She started experiencing other symptoms and upon her request for further tests she was just told that the cancer has spread to her lungs and kidney. She is understandably not dealing with this well and I am not able to broach the topic of life expectancy with her yet. I am her only family member and her care will be my responsibility, there are things unfortunately that I need to plan for. Can anyone help me and be honest....what time frame are we looking at? I live very far away from her so there are many preparations that I need to make and I do want to make sure that I am there with her...but I can't just stop working indefinitely. Any comments would be greatly appreciated!
Dear MarySmith: Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict how long a person will live. Metastatic breast cancer is generally considered incurable but not necessarily untreatable. There are many possible treatments and depending on a variety of factors, age, general health, and response to treatment, women can live weeks, months or even years. Her oncologist may have a better feel for the situation since he knows all the particulars of her case. You may ask your sister for permission to discuss this with him/her. However, even the best guess can be wrong. You may also see if there is a social worker that works with your sister’s oncologist. This could be an excellent resource for helping both of you through this emotionally as well as logistically.
I'm not sure anyone can tell you what you need to know. Stage 4 is certainly treatable these days and advances are being made all the time. The best place for an answer would be a talk with her Oncologist; providing that she will allow such a discussion. An answer, if there is one, could only come from her Physicians who know every detail of her particular case. Regards ....
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