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93 year old grandmother with breast cancer

Meloneygraham's picture
Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2013

I am a 1 year survivor.  I had a double mastectomy so I know how physically and mentally difficult it can be.  This week my 93 year old grandmother was diagnosed with a large tumor in one breast and small tumors in the other one.  The family met with a surgeon today and he said he is 99.9% sure it is cancer.  He is sending her for a biopsy and wants to do a double mastectomy.  She is in a nursing home, has had a stroke and has congestive heart failure.  We are at a loss as a family as to what to do.  What happens if we choose to do nothing?  How do you put someone who is 93 through this?  Any words of wisdom or opinions would be greatly appreciated. 


coco2008's picture
Posts: 420
Joined: May 2013

Sorry to hear about your grandmother.  I can't imagine having to make these decisions for someone else.  My prayers are with you all.


Posts: 6587
Joined: Oct 2010


I had final decsion making for my mom-I DID what she has told me over the  years...NOT what I wanted..I THINK that is why she put me in charge KNOWING I WOULD follow her wishes. IT was hard but she trusted me.

Posts: 6587
Joined: Oct 2010

So sorry to hear of this...My peronal opinion is let her be-she has been through enough-heart issues etc.

MY MOM did not die of cancer but she had much of what your granmother has and when she coudln't make decisions-we stopped anything to add more stress to her life. YOU know her best-my mom was so scared of everything I saw no sense and doing more things to stress her. LIKE I SAID each have to make family decision but at her age I WOULDN"T want to have her go through surgery etc.


 HOW alert and aware is your grandmother? Has a social worker or anyone professional spoken to her yet?

ITS so hard-I KNOW...I"ll be thinking of you and your family.

carkris's picture
Posts: 4554
Joined: Aug 2009

We are in that stuation with my MIL she is 84 with alzheimers, mid stages, she was just diagnosed with intestinal tumor, we are working it up, but are not going to anything majorly invasive. If it is superficial they can remove it with some sort of scope, if not, then we will opt for no treatment. We are opting for quality not quantity of life. She knows somewhat what is going on, but cant make decisions, but we know she c0uld not withstand treatment, and why put her through this when she has already a terminal disease in the alzheimers. Its all so sad.

New Flower
Posts: 4299
Joined: Aug 2009

I am very sorry. From your own experience you know how much is involved in mastectomy including general anasthesia. Probably cardiologist opinion is critical at this point. If her biopcy shows Estrogen positive cancer she could be on antiestrogen pill. In case of Her2 positive there are options too. When her biopcy results come back seek a consultation with medical oncologist who may suggest noninvasive options for her

sandra4611's picture
Posts: 121
Joined: Sep 2013

As a survivor yourself, you know first hand what the next year will be like for your grandmother. You know how strong she is and probably have a gut feeling of how it will go. A biopsy will tell the doctors what her prognosis is.  

I had to make decisions for my mother and it was agonizing but it came down to what she would have wanted. To be kept alive in a lot of pain from treatment that would never cure her, or to leave her alone? She had congestive heart failure and needed heart surgery but was too sick to survive it. During her last hospitalization she suffered from cellulitis in her legs and was in so much pain.  The antibiotics for infection gave her diarrhea and she was mortified to have lost her dignity. She developed pneumonia and was on so much pain medication that she was not aware much of the time. When she was awake she cried in pain and misery. The doctors kept wanting to do more and more tests, procedures, breathing treatments, x-rays. Mother pleaded with them to leave her alone but they ignored her wishes. Moving her was agony.

I finally turned to Hospice. I  would highly recommend you do the same. I had no idea what Hospice was all about and all the services they offer. Upon my call, an RN and a social worker from Hospice came to the hospital. The nurse reviewed my mothers records and talked to her doctors. She said the concensus was my mother would not survive more than a month even with all the interventional treatment. The social worker was wonderful and helped me talk to my barely lucid mother about Hospice care in such a gentle, loving way. They are angels! They recommended palliative care only. Keep her as comfortable as possible, out of pain, fed, but no more treatment. We moved her to a beautiful Hospice facility the next day and she died the day after that, never having regained consciousness. I was at peace, knowing that I had turned to professionals who deal with the end of life every day and could help me make the hardest decision of my life. Mother was only 79.

Your grandmother is 93 and has lived a long life. Only the family knows what she would want. Don't let doctors push you around. Think only of what is best for her. Even if you never move her to a Hospice facility, they will help you and your family with your decision anyway. Call them.

Posts: 653
Joined: Oct 2012

It is a difficult decision to make.  Each situation is different.  My maternal grandmother was in her mid-80s when she/family was told she had cancer in her lungs.  She had been taken to the hospital because of some physical problems, may have been breathing issues.  (She had been wheel-chair bound for about 40 years -- no one is exactly sure what brought that on, as she -- like my aunts and my mother -- was not one to go to a doctor.) The decision was not to do surgery.  The decision was to do whatever could be done to keep her comfortable.  This was in 1979, and so I really do not recall many of the details, as she lived in NC -- I live in NY.  I just know that the relatives down that way got hospice going and just let things run their course.

I know that if my mother, age 91, were to be diagnosed with any kind of cancer, she would not want surgery either.  We would go with hospice care.


I am sure the right decision will be made in your grandmother's case.

lintx's picture
Posts: 691
Joined: Sep 2012


most definitely say do nothing.  She'd most likely not get through the anesthesia w/o having a stroke at the very least.  That's just too much at her age.  I know decisions like this are really hard because our hearts take over.  Your family will make the right one.  Hugs, Linda 

Posts: 579
Joined: Dec 2010

If you do not mind me just saying how I feel straight out.  I would definitely not give her the treatment, bless her heart.  The pain, soreness, fatigue, NOT EATING, the possibility of infection at that grand old age,   My mum died from lung cancer after three lots of breast cancer.  No one said it was secondary but I believe it was.  She was 20 years younger than your grandmpther and it was a horrible time.  It broke her heart to loose her hair ect.  I agree we must put ourselves in their shoes.  Good luck, sorry such an awful decision to make.

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2805
Joined: Jun 2010

All weigh into the decision.  My gut reaction is leave the woman alone, but there may be valid reasons for recommending the surgery.  Is she able to understand what's gonig on and what the prognosis is or does someone else in the family have to make this decision for her? 

I'm so sorry you're facing this.  Please get all of the information and maybe even get a second opion.  That might help you.


Posts: 6587
Joined: Oct 2010

recently a family friend was diagnosed with cancer-she had basic sugery (not BREAST cancer) to fix immediate issue but not fix or take out cancer (about the same age as your grandmother) She is doing well-with the least amount of care, procedures to give her a good life.

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