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Radiation Treatment at 87 Years of Age

jmdaughter
Posts: 12
Joined: Apr 2009

Hi everyone,
I am looking for advise from those of you who have been through radiation and chemo treatment for adenocarcinoma. My mom is 87 years old and has just been diagnosed with it----they found a small tumor in the vaginal wall and took a biopsy of it and discovered it was cancer. They cannot tell us for sure where it originated due to the fact that she had a hystorectomy about 40 years ago, but they suspect it was endometrial or cervical originally. They don't feel she is a candidate for surgery due to her age and asthma, so they are recommending 5 weeks of daily radiation with one day a week of chemo. My mom feels good right now and is not ill. She is considering doing nothing because she knows that the treatment will make her sick and also can possibly damage her internally. She doesn't see any reason to go through this torture at her advanced age and I don't want to see that happen to her either. The doctors say that they can't tell us if it is a fast-growing cancer or not. We are all so scared for her and don't know what to do. Do any of you have any advise to give knowing what you do about the treatment? Is it worth going through at her age? Has anyone known of someone refusing treatment and remaining well for a long time? Thank you for your help and good luck to all of you who are fighting this battle. You are so brave.

jmdaughter

lindaprocopio's picture
lindaprocopio
Posts: 2022
Joined: Oct 2008

Your mother may do very well on the treatments, and she won't know how well she can tolerate it unless she tries it. I had my last of 6 rounds of carbo/taxol (which is what I am guessing she will get) March 26th, and was never nauseated at all. I had a day or so of achiness with each round, but, honestly, the chemo was soooooo much more do-able than I would ever have imagined. I start radiation April 30th, and can't speak yet from personal experience, but with the new IMRT radiation, serious complications only affect about 5% of those who have the treatments. Internal vaginal brachy radiation primarily affects your sex life afterwards, and your mother may not even be concerned with that at her age. My fear would be that her cancer will eventually cause her pain if she doesn't take any treatments and it is allowed to grow unchecked. My suggestion is to have her start treatment if that is what her oncologist recommends, and if it affects her quality of life too much, then just quit it. That's what I would do. But taking treatment is a very persoanl decision.

jmdaughter
Posts: 12
Joined: Apr 2009

Thank you so much for your feedback and thoughts on this. I will definitely mention that to her about stopping if it is too hard on her. That makes sense. It is just so scary because she has become so fragile in the last few years and it's hard to think she might go downhill with treatment. Her doctor told us the same thing though about 5 percent suffering serious complications. Thank you again for your comments and for taking time to answer me. Take care of yourself and I wish you the very best with your treatments and recovery.

deanna14
Posts: 734
Joined: Oct 2008

I think Linda has given you some excellent advice. I had a much worse picture in my mind of radiation and chemo than what it has actually been. There really are minimal side effects from the radiation, some fatigue. If you follow a low fiber diet and keep imodium handy, there is minimal GI upset. Chemo is not nearly as bad as I anticipated prior to starting. The medications they give you to manage the side effects work quite well.

Please share these things with your mother and maybe it can help calm some of her worry. When is comes down to it, she is the only one who can make the decision. I think Linda has an excellent idea about trying treatment and she could quit if she wants to.

Good luck to you and your family and may God bless you.

jmdaughter
Posts: 12
Joined: Apr 2009

Thank you so much for your answer. I will tell my mom and the decision is hers to make. Thank you for sharing and I wish you all the best with your recovery. Did the chemo and radiation help you? I know her biggest fear is to go through it all and just have the cancer return in a short time. We have seen this happen with friends and family. It makes you wonder if it's worth it. Take care and bless you.

jmdaughter
Posts: 12
Joined: Apr 2009

Hi,
I was just wondering how you are doing now and if you have experienced any lasting side effects from the radiation treatments? My mom was diagnosed with vaginal cancer about 2 years ago and ended up refusing the radiation and chemo (she's 88 years old now) and she still isn't showing any symptoms. But she recently went to another doctor for a second opinion and they say the cancer has grown a bit, but it has not spread, so they are pushing her pretty hard to have 5 weeks of daily external radiation and 3 treatments of the internal radiation. Do you have any thoughts on this? I would appreciate any advise you can give us. Her quality of life is so important to her. We are scared and don't know what to do. I hope you are doing well. Thank you so much.

jmdaughter

TiggersDoBounce's picture
TiggersDoBounce
Posts: 413
Joined: Oct 2009

Sending prayers out to your Mom and you :)

The internal radiation is easy...albeit a bit rough from the modesty perspective...not sure how your Mom feels about that...but I had no side effects from that.

I had 8 1/2 weeks of external radiation and by week 3 had significant stomach side effects; i.e. bad diarrhea and stomach discomfort. I would ask specific questions about the radiation...there are different types...maybe explore what the what ifs with the docs...if she has bad side effects by week 3, can she quit. To me I would think some is better than none??

Please keep us posted...

Laurie

Highlander15
Posts: 2
Joined: Feb 2004

Try the radiation treatment, for me it was harsh but I had a high grade of cancer. Try it to see how long she can tolerate it she can drop out if it is too much for her.

jmdaughter
Posts: 12
Joined: Apr 2009

Hi,
Just wanted to thank you for your comments. I haven't had a chance to check on any answers for awhile, so I'm sorry this response is a little tardy. But I appreciate your caring enough to answer and give your thoughts. I'll pass them on to my mom. She still hasn't decided if she is going to go through with treatment or not. She believes her quality of life will decrease if she has the radiation. She may decide to take her chances.
I would like to know if you feel that the radiation helped you. How are you doing now? I hope you are doing well and feeling better. Take care.

deanna14
Posts: 734
Joined: Oct 2008

I guess only time will truly tell if the radiation helped. My cancer was removed with surgery and subsequent treatments have been an attempt to prevent any reoccurance. So, as I said time will tell. I do know that I don't have any lasting side effects from the radiation that I can't live with. For example, I have to empty my bladder more frequently, or it leaks. They tell me that this may improve over time and that it is decreased bladder capacity from the radiation. Would it prevent me from doing radiation again... NO. I would make the same decision again, because I want to live and taking the treatment gives me better of odds of beating this cancer. I do not believe that radiation has decreased my quality of life. In fact, the whole experience has probably increased my quality of life. It certainly changes how you view things and makes you appreciated the little things in life.
I do hope and pray that your mother decides to at least try taking treatment. I think she will find that it is well worth increasing the odds of beating this cancer. Hang in there and stay strong.

chdewan
Posts: 3
Joined: Jul 2009

Hi.
I just wanted to tell you of my experience. I had a hsyterectomy, chemo and radiation treatment. I was 37 years old, relatively healthy. The radiation was ok in the beginning, but it eventually bacame awful. At one point, I asked the Dr. if I could stop the radiation because the side effects were so bad. My skin was burnt, raw, it was extremely painful to go to the bathroom and fatigued. But I did complete the treatment. However, 4 months after treatment ended, I had a recurrence. If I had known the cancer would come back, I would have quit the treatment.
I can only imagine that this is an extremely difficult time for you and your family. I wish you and your mom luck.

lindaprocopio's picture
lindaprocopio
Posts: 2022
Joined: Oct 2008

Since posting earlier, I had 28 rounds of external pelvic radiation (IMRT) and 3 rounds of internal vaginal brachy radiation finishing July 1st. I came through the radiation just fine with no skin burning of any kind and no lasting sexual or digestion side effects. I had diahrea during the external radiation that was bearable as long as I stuck to the low-fiber diet and drank the 64 ounces of fluid daily that they recommended. I lost 8 pounds during the radiation, but I'd gained 15 with my chemo, so the weight loss was welcome.

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