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Treatment For Vaginal Adenocarcinoma--Questions?

jmdaughter
Posts: 12
Joined: Apr 2009

Hi everyone,
I am desperate for answers for my 88 year old mother. She was diagnosed with vaginal adenocarcinoma about 2 years ago. It was found in a routine exam (although she hadn't had an exam in about 5 years prior to that.)It was a small spot they said, but the doctors recommended some chemo once a week and 5 weeks of daily radiation. My mom's health is generally good, but she declined treatment at that time due to fears of what it might do to her.
Recently, she decided to get a second opinion, so we went to a big cancer center here and they checked her and said that the cancer lesions had grown a bit, but it has not spread to her lymph nodes or anywhere else so far. They recommend 5 weeks of daily external beam radiation and 3 treatments of the internal (tampon-type) radiation.
She is very frightened of the side effects of this and is trying to decide what to do. She has had no symptoms up to this point from the cancer, so she is thinking of letting nature take it's course and take her chances with the cancer and I just want what's best for her. After reading what some of you have experienced with radiation, it's very scary to think what might happen to her in her advanced age----especially when she seems to be doing fine right now.
We would welcome any advice that anyone has to give. This is the hardest thing I've ever seen her have to go through and she is agonizing over what to do. Please help!!! Thank you so much and I wish you all well on your journey through this "cancer maze". Take care.

jmdaughter

Lisa 00
Posts: 108
Joined: Jul 2009

I think that, if it were me who were faced with these sorts of treatments at age 88, knowing what I know having been through them at age 46, I wouldn't do the treatments. The chemo and radiation can be brutal on the body and the radiation leaves permanent damage. I haven't known very many 88 year olds, but I think they are pretty delicate people.

In 2009, one of my docs who isn't an oncologist said to me shortly after being diagnosed with cervical, uterine and ovarian endometrioid adenocarcinoma, "these things grow very slowly." He went on to say that I had probably had the cancer for 8 to 9 years. And even in 2009, after probably having it the better part of a decade, it wasn't in my lymph nodes or my abdominal cavity. At least it didn't show up on any scans. He was basically saying, "now I know why you've been fatigued since you first came to me in 2004."

Your mother can obtain her pathology report which will describe the tissue taken for biopsy. You will probably find a reference to the grade of the cancerous cells which refers to the rate of growth that is expected. The lower the grade, the less aggressive it is expected to be in terms of growth and metastasis.

If I were your mother, I would probably not go for chemo or radiation especially if I had a low grade tumor. She has quality of life now and that is what the game is ultimately about. When you've been through cancer, you realize that.

Those are just my somewhat rambling thoughts. Take care and God bless.

jmdaughter
Posts: 12
Joined: Apr 2009

Hi Lisa,
I can't thank you enough for your helpful words. You have pretty much re-enforced her decision to not have the treatment. I'm sorry I haven't responded sooner---I just looked at my e-mails today. My mom decided not to have the treatment shortly after I wrote the e-mail to the survivor's network. I'm actually pretty relieved because I know it would have made her very weak and sick and I would have hated to see her that way. So we'll keep trusting in God and that it's a slow-growing cancer. Thank you so much for your advice and I will share it with her. It means so much to us at this very scary time.
Our prayers will go with you and I wish you good health. Thank you again.

Sincerely,
jmdaughter

jmdaughter
Posts: 12
Joined: Apr 2009

Hi Lisa,
I hope this finds you doing well and feeling good. I just wanted to let you know how my mom is doing since we last spoke about her having to decide whether or not to have chemo/radiation treatments at age 88. You had been kind enough to offer your opinion on what you would do and I am happy to tell you that it has been almost 2 years now since she was diagnosed with her vaginal cancer and she has refused any treatment and is doing fine, with no symptoms other than an occasional light spotting of blood. She feels good and is just as active as she always has been. She hasn't noticed any difference in her health, although her doctors were not pleased with her decision to not get treatment. I do shudder to think what kind of shape she might be in now if she had gone ahead and taken the harsh treatments at her age. She is happy with her decision, although it is hard for her knowing she has cancer and wondering what will happen down the road, but she is determined to let nature take it's course, and our family is behind her 100 per cent, whatever she decides to do. We would have supported her fully if she had chosen treatment, but knew it had to be her decision. Anyway, I hope you are doing well and that your cancer is not causing you any problems. Take care and thank you again for your kind words of wisdom.

Joyce

bea-mil's picture
bea-mil
Posts: 106
Joined: Jun 2010

It is hard to make such decision for ourselves and it is even harder to advise others.
I can only tell you that at age 48 I had refused a radiation and I’m so happy that my family didn’t “force” me to do it. Let your mother decide, she knows what is best for her.

I agree with Lisa sometimes cancer grows very slowly. Read my story on my profile.

All the best to your mom

jmdaughter
Posts: 12
Joined: Apr 2009

Hi,
Thank you so much for your response. It means so much to hear from people who have been through cancer. My mom decided to not go through with the treatment due to all the possible complications. And at her age,I suspect that she would have some of them due to her fragile body. And I agree with you that you can't make that decision for someone else--it's such a personal choice. But I was determined to give her as much information as I could find so that she would know what to expect. Doctors are so quick to rush you into harsh treatments that aren't always in the best interest of the patient. Her quality of life is very precious to her at this age. Our family has always told her that we will support whatever she decides to do 100 percent. So we will carry on from here and hope for the best.
Thank you again for your response and I will definitely look at your story to see what you have been through. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us and God bless you.

Sincerely,
jmdaughter

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