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lbb87 04-16-2007 10:46 PM

Please help us understand
My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago. She had a mastectomy a few months after she found out she had cancer. She didn't have chemotherapy or radiation, just the surgery. Then a few months later she said that she was free from cancer - they got it all during the surgery.

Now her doctors have found another lump. At this point, no one knows what it is and if it's cancer. Some of us aren't supposed to know but another family member told us after we suspected something was wrong.

Some of us family members are concerned about a few things. Is it normal to have a mastectomy and not get chemotherapy or radiation? She had talked about having to get chemo the first time but then she didn't have to. We all thought it was standard to get either chemo and/or radiation even if you do have a mastectomy.

The other thing is that since the mastectomy, it seems that her health is deteriorating. She has many other health problems but we can't see where they would be causing the symptoms she is having. We're wondering if maybe the doctors never got the cancer the first time and perhaps it spread. How do doctors usually determine whether they got it all?

Linda49er 04-17-2007 12:55 AM

Re: Please help us understand
[B]Hi Ibb,

I had a lumpectomy before my mast. It was to try and preserve my breast BUT because my margins of tissue around the tissue he took out still showed cancer cells he recommended the mast. They check it on the path report. Then when I had my mast. they checked the margins again and they were clean meaning they got it all that time. But there's no guarantee it won't come back. Then there is another test, blood test, for CEA levels.

CEA stands for Carcinoembryonic Antigen which in our cases are tumor markers. I had the blood work monthly to watch my CEA levels because it can show if the cancer is spreading. Somethings can also make it increase too so your doc will take that into consideration. I was getting a shot after every chemo treatment called Neulasta which is a white blood cell booster so I wouldn't get neutropenic (lack of white blood cells). It my WBC count was toooo low I had to skip my chemo. Smoking can also increase the CEA levels.

I don't know why they didn't give her chemo/radiation. Several things to consider in giving it. Her doctor would be the best one to answer that question.

I hope this has helped some :)

Take care and let us know how she does.

cjammom 04-18-2007 07:50 PM

Re: Please help us understand
Hi Ibb, I have heard of women with early stage breast cancer only having a mast..some even just having a lumpectomy..I had a mast and chemo 4yrs ago.Are the going to biosy the other lump? Were was this lump on her good breast or the mast side?
You dont mention what kind of symptoms that she is having..but I can tell you from my own experience that after having a diagnosis of cancer and then undergoing a is an awful lot for a person to handle emotionally..and sometimes that can lead to depression, which seems to exacerbate all other health conditions..this happened to me until I got some counseling and started on an anti-depression med..I am not saying that this is what is going on..she needs to have a dr. evaluate her symptoms.
Just old is your grandmother..mine was 72 when she got bc...and lived till she was 92! it wasnt cancer that killed her either.
best wishes to you
hope everything turns out okay..let us know

Julie01961 05-02-2007 12:47 PM

Re: Please help us understand
Hi, I had breast cancer (stage 1) in 2003 and had a full mastectomy due to family history. Doc said that if I had chemo, 3% chance it would help keep cancer from returning. Tamoxifen would help 10%. I opted for no chemo and yes to the Tamoxifen. I subsequently quit the drug after 2 1/2 months due to nasty side effects. It IS typical to not have chemo or radiation if the cancer is small and caught early. Mine was even invasive, however had not spread to a lymph node.

I recently had a breast MRI because I've had a cyst in the non-affected breast for some time. However they said things looked wonderful and so no worries. Maternal grandmother and great-grandmother both had breast cancer (after age 70) and mother had colon cancer at 38. She's still hangin' in there at 72. Cancer does NOT have to be fatal or horrifying, although the initial reaction would be the same in all instances. The best thing I did was talk to someone else who had had breast cancer. Did me a world of good. Hope this helps.


Teresa 51 05-02-2007 05:44 PM

Re: Please help us understand
Hello lbb,

My cancer was caught early and I opted for mast. and no chemo. After the mast, the tissue was examined and no cancer was found. I started on tamoxifen, stopped that and started arimidex.

Hopefully for your Grandmother, the lump is beign. I can tell you first hand...I had my mast. 3 years ago and it seems like my energy level is at an all time low. I usually blame the med that I'm on but it could be the surgery.

Hang in there and keep doing what your doing: trying to learn about the disease and being supportive for your Gran.

Take care,

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