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Joined: Aug 2009

My mother lost her battle July 18th. She was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in '07. She fought for 2 and a half years.

Her first diagnosis was just really bad broncitis(sp?) then she called me in the hospital saying she was just having trouble breathering and she was fine. Then a few days later my youth minster came to my work to talk to me, luckly I was done for the day. I found out that she had cancer Feb. of '07.

She was a survivor of breast cancer. She was diagnosed with that back when I was 10 years old, I am now 22, I will be 23 in Oct.

Can some one please tell me how she went from a diagnosis of broncitis(sp?) to a diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer.

Diane 88's picture
Diane 88
Posts: 19
Joined: Jan 2009

I am sorry about your mother.

I just finished my first year after my breast cancer surgery this week. I have spots on my lungs. The doctors are concerned but not reacting.

I understand it is difficult to determine cancer in lung tissue because the lungs are hard to sample. Spots on xrays could be from anything not just because cancer causing the damage. As you know the sample missed delays treatment.

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sep 2006

I think you are asking two questions: 1.) How did no one keep track of my mom's breast cancer to make sure it didn't go undetected as it moved to her lungs?; and 2.) How could a doctor possibly mistake an obviously aggressive lung cancer for bronchitis?

They are both reasonable questions.

Let me first express my sympathy for the loss of your mom. I lost my own when I was a lot older than you, and I know that it is painful and something that makes you both angry and sad, frustrated and miserable, regardless of how old you or mom is when it happens.

I am not a doctor or even a medical professional, so take what I say with a huge grain of salt (maybe a pound or two, even), but my take, based on my experience as someone whose mom died from breast cancer metastatis 20 years after her original diagnosis and surgery, and as someone, as well, who has survived two cancers of my own, one of which includes lung cancer, is this:

1.) As you must know, based on the time your mom got to live cancer-free (or apparently so), the docs seem to have a schedule based on the statistics of those who have gone before, and, I am sure, to be honest, on what the insurance companies will allow, but that is for another day. The bottom line is that as survivors, we WANT to get to the point where they are just checking us every three months. When they say our checkups are moved out to every six months, we are rather ecstatic, and when they become yearly, we are feeling like it may be behind us forever, even if it truly remains in the backs of our minds.

Mom, I am sure, got to the point where her checkups were being performed by her family doc rather than OncoMan. He, FamilyDoc, is not qualified to look for cancer by himself, although he would recognize signs if mom complained of certain things. Mom probably did not. Given her history, and assuming FamilyDoc was really a competent and caring doctor, I would assume that he/she would be especially on the lookout for any symptoms in mom.

Over time, though, the tests stop. CAT scans, PET scans, MRIs, these all become cost-prohibitive, even for the wealthiest of us. Let us just see if it comes back.

Or something like that.

I know that when my mom's breast cancer metastasized to her brain it was only because she had since been discovered with ovarian cancer that they discovered the stuff in the brain.

2.) I went to my GP (FamilyDoc) with a complaint of a sore throat in June of 05. He gave me an antibiotic and told me to come back when the prescription was completed. I did not, not right away. When I did go back, he took another look inside my mouth, and ordered a stronger medication. Cancer survivors, and especially caregivers, might argue that he blew the call, that when I subsequently called him in August and said I had a bump on my tongue and couldn't eat properly, he was way behind the eightball.

I would beg to differ. He acted on the symptoms I described, he checked the area I said was hurting, and when, and only when, I got down to the nitty-gritty with the bump on the tongue, did he realize that something very serious was going down.

He is still my trusted personal physician.

What I am saying is that he treated the symptoms I described (I had no previous cancer history at the time, although it was rife throughout my family). He looked, and he made judgments based on my descriptions and what he saw.

I assume it was the same for your mom. I assume that FamilyDoc listened to mom's complaints and decided that they sounded like bronchitis. Even if FamilyDoc took xrays, if mom smoked there is a strong chance that if FamilyDoc saw 'nodes' he considered them, at first go-round, scar tissue from smoking, from previous bouts of bronchitis, and from pneumonias, either known or unknown, in mom's past.

Obviously and regrettably, some cancers work very fast, very efficiently. When they are discovered, it is sometimes too late. Or other factors mitigate survival possibilities.

I have not answered your questions to your satisfaction, I know. I know, in fact, that your greatest question is a philosophical one, the simple and most complex one: Why?

In that largest sense of the question, I have no answer except to ask, as kindly as I can, why not?

My best wishes to you and your family.

Take care,


Posts: 3
Joined: Aug 2009

She was in total remision from that. The dr even said it wasn't related in any way.

She had spots in her lungs, bones, liver, and brain.

Mom never smoked or was around it.

Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

I'm so sorry about what happened to your mom. It sounds like instead of your mom's breast cancer spreading after many years of being dormant, that maybe she developed a second kind of cancer that spread. That can happen. A pathology report can let you know more about what kind of cancer your mom had that metasticized (I mean spread). You can have more than one kind of cancer. I am both a stage 1 breast cancer survivor since 2002 and a stage 1 lung cancer survivor since 2006. I asked my breast oncologist how many different kinds of cancer one person could have. He was about to tell me and then stopped and told me that it wasn't important. What was important was what I had and what I was doing to stay healthy. I teach classes to little kids on the importance of not starting the smoking habit. I can't tell you how many times I've told them that 9 out of 10 cases of lung cancer are associated with smoking. Well, I didn't smoke and I have lung cancer anyways. My house is negative for radon and I have always eaten well and taken decent care of myself. Oh well, stuff happens. Smoking does irritate lung tissue and can spark cancerous growths, but it is still a disease not a punishment. And if 9 out of 10 folks get cancer sparked by smoking, that still means that 1 out of 10 get it without smoking. I guess I'm am one of those 1 out of 10 folks.

Anyhow, see if you can get a copy of your mom's pathology report. It is important for you to know. If your mom developed lung cancer without smoking, you will want to let your doctor know. There are things you can do to maximize your health by knowing what diseases your mom had. Don't panic! I don't mean that you are sure to develop the same things your mom had. But doctors will keep a closer eye on symptoms if they know that something could possibly run in your family. We often do have genetic tendencies (but because we have 2 parents, we are also somewhat protected from even definately genetically inherited conditions. Only a minority of cancers are known to be inherited (like only 10% of all breast cancers), but it is still worth talking to your doctor about. Eating a rainbow of veggies and exercising daily are examples of things folks can do to lessen their chance of developing any kind of cancer. Those happen to be great ways to prevent heart disease and death from any other causes too. Getting certain tests a few years before a parent had a particular kind of cancer (like a mammogram starting a few years before your mom was diagnosed with breast cancer) can catch things early if necessary so you have more options. Good luck!

C. Abbott

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