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93 year old with breast cancer

Posts: 11
Joined: Apr 2002

I'm writing on behalf of my 93 year old mother who was just diagnosed with breast cancer. She is an independent, active 93 year old who lives on her own. Her surgeon has suggested a lumpectomy for a 2.5 cm malignant tumor to be done under local anethesia and hopefully he will get some decent margins with this surgery. He said she will probably have to have some radiation follow-up. He does not want to do general anethesia because of her age. The surgeon states that once the surgery starts, if the chest wall etc, is affected, or if the maligancy has spread, he may need to do some type of modified mastectomy and would be forced to switch to a general anethesia. He stated that if she had a modified mastectomy she may not need radiation. He also said that he would not recommend chemo for a woman her age. I've received mixed messages from a lot of people on this--from don't do anything to a full mastectomy. I'm unable to get her into a major cancer center until after her surgery is scheduled and she does not want to delay the surgery. ANy suggestions? Has any one been through this with an elderly mother/spouse? what can we expect? Thanks!

Posts: 682
Joined: Feb 2001

I'll be willing to bet (if I were a betting woman) that a cancer center would do a lumpectomy and follow it with tamoxifen if the tumor is estrogen positive which they usually are in post menopausal women. *Let us know what really happens.*

I would not have MY mother taking radiation at 93 nor myself - think of how delicate her skin must be!

Wishing your Mom smooth sailing - think a long time about the radiation and get a second opinion because radiation does not follow immediately.


Posts: 10
Joined: May 2003

How does she feel about tx options? Is she active and of sound mind. I would support whtever she is comfortable with. I am a hospice nurse and have seen many older patients who ignore breast ca, few pass from the illness. Older people tend to have a much slower metabolism and therefore ca is not usually very aggressive. My grandmother was diagnosed at 80 and lived to be 91! I have a auny who is 96 , active, and in good health but know she would choose to forgo anything aggressive. I would do whatever she wants and stand by that without second guessing the decision. As a nurse, I am realistic and look at the quality of life. What will be gained by intervention and what effect will it have on her life. I myself have breast ca and had a bilateral masectomy 10 days ago. Recovery has not been too bad, but i am half her age! Good luck and i will keep your family in my prayers! Pam

Posts: 219
Joined: Feb 2003

All I know is, a double mastectomy is really traumatic. I just had one , and I'm 54.
The operation really isn't that painful...more of a discomfort. But all the stitches on the chest and underarm with part of your anatomy missing isn't pleasant. In my case, I am heavy, I have golfballs in my armpits which will have to be removed six months after surgery.
Plus, the drainage tubes were frustrating. I had 3 which drained into what looked like grenades..mine took about 2-3weeks to drain before they could be removed.
I don't know if I would want to put a 93 year old through all that. However, I really can't tell anyone what to do...it's really a personal decision how aggressive one wants to treat their cancer. God bless.

Posts: 219
Joined: Feb 2003

forgot to mention..I read somewhere that usually the cancer doesn't get to the chest wall.

Posts: 84
Joined: Apr 2003

zimbo, first of all God Bless you for supporting your mother and being here on her behalf. The most important thing you can do is to support, love and be there for her. I just wanted to tell you that I had lumpectomy in Jan. I ended up having the node disection under my arm too, and that was definatly the worse of the surgeries. However, the next day I could lift my arm all the way over my head which I swear was because of yogi classes. But, that incesion still is a little sore and gets weird pains on occainsion. The incesion on my breast has healed with out problem or much pain, and they even had to go back in again because my margins weren't clean. That time I had only local anethesia and that was easy too. I went home in a couple hours and sat on my deck and enjoyed lunch with my best friend, felt great. I haven't had radiation yet, so I can tell what that's like. I'm in chemo right now. I'm 48, and before all this happen I was a strong, healthy, independent single mom. Chemo has kicked my butt basically, leaving me weak and feeling vulnerable. What I'm trying to say, is if chemo does this to me at my age when I'm healthy and strong, I can't imagine at 93, even if they're independent and active. A simple lumpectomy however, was a fairly easy procedure to go through. When you get into a masectomy or even a node disection it's a different story. I would agree with pam that I would stand by her whatever her decision, but she needs to know what she's in for in what she decides. I wish you the best, and come into the chat room sometime. There are caregivers and suvivors that understand what you are going through. Judy

Posts: 252
Joined: Apr 2002

There are also other risks to consider besides general anesthesia. I had a horrible staph infection after my surgery which was pretty serious for me at 45 - can't imagine it at 93.
What does your mother want? Does she want to be aggressive? Get some honest answers for her from her doctors. What happens if she doesn't do anything? Radiation is a breeze for some, but it can be VERY uncomfortable and I would think her skin is more fragile. How much difference would the rads make? You've got a tough role to help your mom make this decision. Make sure that everyone is considering quality of life for her.
Take care and good luck! Diane

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