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Avatar universal

Is the cancer back?

Hello Doctor, if you could please help answer my question, I would appreciate it.

My mom had stage 3 breast cancer in 2005. She had a mastectomy, as well as chemo, radiation and Herceptin. She is now on Tamoxifen.

About a month ago, she started getting a small cough. It is not a deep cough, more like a tickle in her throat. She has nothing come up when she coughs either. She also hurt her back about 3 weeks ago and since then has had some shortness of breath. Given her history, she went to the Dr. The Dr. didn't suspect cancer, but found breath sounds, and decreased oxygen intake in her left lung. She was sent for a chest x-ray. The x-ray came back as inconclusive, but the technician who did the x-ray happens to be a good friend of the family and she did tell us that it looked like fluid she has seen a hundred times. It is in the bottom of her lung and blunt, with no irregular borders. She did say she is not a doctor, but it doesn't look like cancer. The doctor called today and said she is ordering an emergency CT scan because the radiologist suspected a collapsed lung due to her back injury or maybe even a pulmonary embolism or an infection. My friend did say the radiologist report also wanted to check for metastisis, but the doctor didn't even mention this to my mom. My mom has not felt ill at all, no loss of apetite, no weight loss, etc. However, we are all concerned. She is waitng to hear from the hospital as to when she can come in for her CT scan, but based on my description, is there anything you might be able to suspect? Is there a high chance it is cancer, or could it be something else? We are all worried sick about this. If you could shed any light on the situation, it would be greatly appreciated.

1 Responses
Avatar universal

Your concerns are pretty valid, and for a stage 3 cancer to recur within 3 years is not too uncommon.

The symptoms of metastasis to the lung would be similar to other diseases involving the lung. The XRay could possibly detect an effusion, of fluid within the periphery of the lung as what seems to be suggested by your friend. This may be a sign of lung metastasis, but it usually would also have a lung mass evident even on a radiograph only. The suggestion that it may be air (a pneumothorax) from a previous injury would of course be unrelated.

At the present time though, it seems you’ll have to wait for whatever pending tests are coming and for whatever other symptoms would emerge. I think it is reasonable to investigate for breast cancer (this may need an investigation of bones and the liver – as these sites are more commonly involved before any lung involvement occurs), unless the symptoms improve dramatically.

Stay positive.
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