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My 82 year old great aunt with Pancreatic Cancer - More questions - please help.

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Old 05-06-2002, 11:07 AM   #1
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MommyNeecey HB User
Post My 82 year old great aunt with Pancreatic Cancer - More questions - please help.

Hi, I posted a bit back about my 82 year old great aunt having been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer - stage IVa about a month ago. At that time, it had NOT metasticized to her liver or lungs, however it had spread to all the lymph nodes.

The oncologist feels that they need to treat her with full force of radiation and chemotherapy which we personally think is ridiculous at her age and her stage. She has no other family other than nieces and nephews (i.e., never married, no children etc.,) and we personally feel it is almost cruel to put her through the pains of radiation and chemo.

Last week she became very yellow and very itchy - which from what we understand means it has metasticized to her liver. Yet - the oncologist still wants to begin treatment tomorrow.

Does anyone have any opinions out there? The NURSE at the hospital said she is "very bad" and "won't be around much longer" the way she keeps losing weight (lost just 6 pounds this week alone for a grand total of 38 or so since early this year). The nurse also believes the doctor is only wanting to do treatment for the MONEY and the CLINICAL TRIAL. We wish for her to be at peace and hope it is soon. She is 82 and lived a full life and I hate to think that we will put her through the torments of treatment and she will die anyway.

Anyone have any predicitions of how long they think she will live with or without treatment or both?


[This message has been edited by MommyNeecey (edited 05-06-2002).]

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Old 05-06-2002, 05:47 PM   #2
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How does your aunt feel about all this? Although she's 82, she personally may not feel she's "too old" te get treated. My Dad became critically ill at the age of 81 (not cancer), and he fought like hell for 5 months to survive...he wanted to live. None of the doctors and nurses acted as if we should write him off just because of his age.

Having said that, of course there are different concerns with cancer because the treatments can be harsh, although not always. First of all, radiation can have side effects, but most people go through it without much trouble at all. You might get a little bit tired, but then again, you might not. My mother had 3 separate courses of radiation treatment and never missed a day's work, and she was in her 60's and early 70's when she was treated. Last fall I went through radiation treatment and had no side effects whatsoever (except for minor skin burning, which didn't occur until near the end of treatment and healed within a couple of weeks after treatment),

Chemotherapy...well, it depends on what kind. Some kinds are easier to take than others. Also, there are many wonderful anti-nausea medications on the market that completely control the nausea. I actually gained weight during chemotherapy.

Probably the best thing to do is to sit down with the doctors and your aunt and ask the questions: A) what kind of chemo, what are the anticipated side effects? B) how much radiation, how big an area, what are the anticipated side effects? C) If your aunt goes through all this, what is the projected outcome? How much longer do they anticipate extending her life; how will the quality of her life be affected? Also, if she DOESN'T go through any treatment at all, what will her quality of life be like between now and the time she finally succumbs to the cancer. Sometimes chemotherapy can be "palliative", meaning it's not expected to cure the cancer, but can actually make the patient more comfortable, especially if it's a type of cancer that typically spreads all over the body but takes a long time to actually cause death. Certainly you don't want her to end up suffering for months and months.

These are all very hard questions, both to ask, and to hear answered. Don't forget, too, that she can always start treatment and then decide to stop it at a later date if she isn't getting better and feels she'd rather let go than tolerate the side effects of treatment.

Please make sure your that your aunt is not only fully informed, but that her wishes are respected...those are the two kindest things you can do for her. And I wish you all the strength in the world to help you and your family through this difficult time.

Old 05-06-2002, 07:30 PM   #3
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Thanks so much for writing. The chemo is the ever popular 5-FU combined with radiation. At first my aunt was wanting to possibly skip radiation (because her lady friend to her it was horrible) and just do chemo alone - well then the dr. mentioned if that was her route, he'd like to do the gemcitabine - well she's agreed to do the chemo (5-FU) and radiation combined.

She full well knows that this will not "cure" her cancer, and the doctor has explained to her that for her "final time" she would be much better off having her pain (which has gotten quite intolerable now) be somewhat lessened from the treatments and have a better "quality" of "awake" life - than just getting the heavy medicine (morphine) to control the pain and be "out of it and in a daze" as he explained.

We feel as well as the nurse feels that he is interested in the money he'll receive from the Medicare than the actual condiition that my Aunt will be in - but who really can be sure.

There timetable that they've given her is 4 - 6 mos with NO treatment and 12 - 18 mos WITH treatment - which EVERYTHING we've read says that most people die WITHIN a year of diagnosis of pancreatic cancer especially if it's in advanced stages and even with treatment! So in one way we feel has give "false hope" just so we'll do the treatments!

I'll keep you posted as to the outcome - but does anyone have any experience with how long someone has lived where it seems that it has already metasticized to her liver? She's been dianogsed a full month now - and this all has started we believe back in November or December (she didn't present with the abdominal pain till March) - and it wasn't until April that she had the ct scan/ultrasound that confirmed everything. And just last week is when she became jaundice and itchy.

Old 05-06-2002, 10:08 PM   #4
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As with any illness or medical condition, if one is not sure, it can be a good idea to get a second or third opinion etc. Have you discussed this with another doctor?

What you describe can be a difficult situation. We want to do the best thing and sometimes it is so very hard....

Old 05-14-2002, 04:21 PM   #5
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My father was diagnosed with Pancreas Cancer 1& 1/2 years ago. He's 74 now, and did get Chemo (Gemzar and 5FU)for about 6-7 months. Then had a 2 month break and took 8 weeks of radiation. Although I'm sure it saved his life, it beat him up badly and he's a strong man.
If your aunt is fragile or weak or even tired, she will have a rough time with treatment.

There is a supplement that my dad has been taking religiously for 2 years which we're sure helped save him also. It built up his immune system which got him through the treatments. Its called NONI juice. It's a tough decision to make, but having the treatment will increase her months to live but not "quality" of life.

We've been very blessed. My Dad has outlived the "statistics" but has had many set backs and side effects from the treatment.

He had an inoperable tumor (4cm) in the pancreas and it had spread to one or two lymph nodes. Between prayers and the noni juicei, so far he's hanging in...

Hope this helps, feel free to reply with questions.

[...edited to remove website. Please do not post contact information. As per the Posting Policy and Board Guidelines there is No Free Advertising whether or not you benefit.]

[This message has been edited by moderator2 (edited 05-14-2002).]

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