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Avatar universal

Breast Cancer w/mets to liver and lung

My stepmother was diagnosed w/breast cancer in aug. 2003. She had a radical mastectomy and followed w/8 agressive chemo treatments. I know one that she took then was called red devil perhaps? She went for her final checkup in Feb of 04 and was told that she had a 5cm tumor (stage 4) on her liver. She INSISTED on surgery and had a quarter of her liver removed followed by 8 more agressive chemo treatments. She was told in the exact words that she was "cancer free" by her doc in Feb of THIS year and started her breast reconstruction immediately. She started having pains but put off going to the dr until just a couple of weeks ago when we found out she has three tumors *all stage 4* on her lung. They had to drain fluid from her lung and now want to do chemo, etc. She insists on finishing her breast reconstruction. Her pain is STILL bad despite the use of morphine and dilaudid together. No dr will give us even a general "timeline" so to speak. My father and I are both concerned and upset because we don't feel like we're getting answers. Can you please tell me what more chemo will do? And with the amount of surgeries and chemo she's had...won't her body be too weak to handle all of this? She wants to do everything she can because her siblings are pushing her too...but keeps telling my father and I that she's tired. Is there anything that we can do to help her? Sorry to be so vague...but we honestly don't know much and our dr keeps dancing around us. I know there's no cure...and we're doing pain mgmt...but am I right in thinking we probably don't have long left with her? Thank you
4 Responses
Avatar universal
Dear kbazile:  Stage 4 breast cancer (meaning the disease has spread outside the site of origin) is generally considered incurable although it may be controllable with treatments for a period of time.  There are a number of drugs that can be used for breast cancer that could help to shrink tumors but the response can be variable and we don't know in advance who may respond well and who may not.  Also, when considering chemo, one must consider the health of the patient as well as the desires of the patient.  If your mother does not feel she's getting the information she needs to make good decisions, you might consider a second opinion, preferably with a breast specialist.

Avatar universal
Regarding the liver mets/surgery...when the dr did the surgery, he said after the surgery that he was 95% sure that he got what he could SEE...but that he was positive that there was much more left.

Also, on her recent PET scan *last week* they said that not only were there the spots on her lung, but there was also a "spot" on her spine that the dr pushed aside as scar tissue. Does this show up on PET's as well?

I also wanted to add that while she was in the hospital to have the procedure done on her lungs, she had to have a blood transfusion because of her levels dipping so low. On memorial day, she was told by her dr. that she needed to come in because of her blood count, but refused. She later told me that she just KNEW the cancer was back but wasn't ready to deal with it.
Avatar universal
It sounds like you are in a difficult situation.  If the doctor won't speak openly with your father & step-mother regarding her situation, it's probably time to find another doctor.  We were in a similar situation with my mother when she had lymphoma.  The doctor didn't want to "discourage" her.  She gave us very little time and was never forthcoming with information regarding the extent and seriousness of mother's disease.  We got hints of the gravity of the situation when her doctor was out and one of the partner's was covering the case.  Doctors often don't want to admit to "failure" or the possibility that they have not handled a case as well as it might have been handled.  As a loved-one, it's easy to be misled by the doctors and grab on to any glimmer of hope they cast your way.

Having a good understanding of the extent of your step-mother's disease will help in making decisions about treatment and about the priorities she has for her life.  Do treatments really have a possibility of improving her life?  Or is it just a way to buy a few more days/weeks of time at the cost of suffering?  If we had had a clearer understanding of the situation, we would have made different decisions.

If this is a case where it is considered a terminal disease, she may be eligible for hospice and the help and benefits that they have available both for her and the family.  You might want to check into this program in your area.

Avatar universal
HI:  My prayers go out to you and your family.  I don't understand why a patient is ever told that they are "cancer free".  In alot of cases that I read about,  a patient is told this,  and then within a short time later they are being told, oh I'm sorry but, "its back" and now your terminal!  Cancer cells begin seeding as soon as they tap into a blood supply no matter how small they are.. They need a blood supply to stay alive in our bodies, if the lymphatic system isn't able to destroy them. They may lie dormant for many years but eventually they do become active again due to stress or some other or for whatever reason that makes them come alive.  But for people to be given a false hope that they are cancer free is to me just not right!  They are in remission, and for hopefully a long time. When a cancer patient complains of any pain,  they should be taken seriously!  Not shrugged off as a hyprocondriac or that it's just scar tissue.  Hopefully it is scar tissue,  but there is always a chance it isn't,  and a patient feels better when their worst feers are put to rest, even if it's just for that moment.  I have read stories of women who were told they just had osteoarthritis in their back,  and then later find out that it indeed was mets to the spine.  Or because an area of the body is an unlikely place for cancer to spread to, then they are shrugged off again.  People just want the truth, the whole truth and not be told that oh their pain is nothing to worry about.  Because in all fairness,  there is always a chance the cancer will  come back to be fought again another day.  
Sorry, didn't mean to ramble.
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