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Family Support
Questions about breast cancer & family support.
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AskedPublicly Submitted Question
4/19/2009Dear Lillie, Thank you so much for being here for us. I've read so many of your responses, looking for a question similar to mine. I've also read your chapter in the Choices book which I borrowed from our library this week, in addition to the article Treatment Planning for Elderly Women. Our 85 year old mother was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma on 3/5/09. She had a mammogram in early January which was highly suggestive of malignancy and didn't follow through. She's been a widow for many years and still lives on her own, but is starting to be forgetful. My two sisters and I came to celebrate her birthday with her in mid Feb. and one of us discovered the letter regarding the mammogram. My sister Doris was staying all week, so she had the chance to go to my mother's Primary Care doctor's office and obtain a copy of the report.(My mother had given her permission.)They were shocked that our mother had not made an appointment yet with the Breast Surgeon whom they recommended. Anyway, I called her the next business day and we got an appointment for the next week. I live 110 miles away, work and have a family. This was the first time I actually had to take my mother to a doctor's appointment, but I knew I had to be there. The Doctor did the needle biopsy right then and there while being guided with ultra sound images. She said the mass was 9 0'clock in the breast but that she could feel that the skin was already being pulled. Anyway, one week later we were already back in her office for the results of the pathology report: Infiltrating Moderate to poorly differentiated ductal carcinoma, Grade III. The Doctor said my mother should have a mastectomy and she should be fine. Even gave her a pending date of surgery for March 30. My mother had a standing appointment 3/17 with her primary care doctor. She is under his care for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and a low thyroid condition. Meds for all three keep everything under control. This doctor also said she should have the mastectomy- remove the tumor and she would be fine. She came home deciding to trust her doctors and have the operation. I should note that our youngest sister is adamantly opposed to our mother having any surgery. She's been sending her vitamins and herbs to take instead. (The only thing her doctor approved was the vitamin C.) When I called the Breast surgeon the next business day with questions regarding the surgery, I was told that the March 30th date had been given away because we had not responded quickly enough. So then my mother asked for this date of April 20th so it could be after Easter and they said fine. Last week she had the bloodwork and EKG done at her own doctor's office and asked for a copy of the reports. She was told they were being mailed to the surgeon, she didn't need a copy. They didn't even give her the paper back which she had brought in with her and had received from the surgeon's office with her info on it. She was very upset when she told me about this over the phone. She called the surgeon's office Thursday morning in order to obtain the info again, regarding where and when and what time the surgery was to be. No one called her back. She sat by the phone all day. I called for her, but the office was closed already. I left a message anyway, and they called me the next morning, gave me the info and also faxed the paperwork to my job. I had an additional question which I was told could only be answered by the doctor. I was assured she would call me. She never called me. Today, I drove up to visit my mother and to give her the fax. My sister flew in yesterday from North Carolina and is staying through Mother's Day. That's the longest she could take off work. Our other sister is still totally opposed to the surgery and has not spoken to me for a month. Lillie, I quess my question is, should she still have the surgery as planned? She is so afraid, she's starting to forget everything, and now we don't know if we should trust the doctors. So many of the things I have read about were not done, no bone scan, for example. Why don't they test the biopsy material for hormone receptors before the surgery, given my mother's age? This may give her another option. Also, her head has been itching her so much the last few months (even before the diagnosis of cancer). I don't want her to have to go through with the surgery and a few weeks later find that it has already spread. If you answer this for us in time it will be a true miracle. The surgery is to be tomorrow.
RepliedJHU's Breast Center Reply
4/20/2009Lots going on here starting with need for good communication. Mom likely did not understand all she needed to do, or possibly did not want to bother anyone. As a family, you are needing to help your mother more than in past. You are also being challenged to find new ways to cope with medical system as well as your mother's needs. As for your sister with the vitamins, she is mistaken. A diagnosis of a poorly differentiated invasive cancer does not go away with vitamins. Your mother is elderly but she does not want a cancer that keeps on growing and causes her pain and death. Getting rid of source of cancer is important part of her treatment plan. The receptors are often not tested on a biopsy specimen. For complete accuracy, the full tumor will be tested after mastectomy. The bone scan would be done if there is reason to think there is metastic disease as when the lymph nodes are involved or if there are symptoms of disease elsewhere. Her scalp is likely another issue that can be treated by dr or dermatologist. I wish her the best with her surgery and apologize for not answering sooner. ds

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