80 years old and just been told its stage 4, grade 3 cervical cancer...what now?

Cervical cancer

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80 years old and just been told its stage 4, grade 3 cervical cancer...what now?

No. of entries: 5 | Posted on 24 Jun 2009 12:57

80 years old and just been told its stage 4, grade 3 cervical cancer...what now?

  • Hi

    This is my first post on here and I'm not sure what to write here so please bear with me if I start waffling!

    My great aunt who turned 80 last week was diagnosed with cervical cancer in April 08, they said there was a large tumour on the cervix (it hadnt spread to her womb or ovaries so she didnt need a hysterectomy) and it had metastisized into the pelvis and right hip. They said it was incurable and decided not to remove the tumour but gave her about 6 sessions of radiotherapy last june and then referred her to the hospice for pailliative care where she went on a weekly basis until Easter this year.

    She was discharged from the hospice beginning of April 09 because they said the tumour was stable and she was doing so well, eating, going to the toilet (it had affected her bladder very badly at first) and was going about her normal life.

    The process to discharge her started back in February when she was doing very well but around the end of March she told me she was having to go to the toilet more frequently again, I asked if she had told the hospice and she said yes, she had had her monthly exam (beginning of April) with the hospice Dr and was told all was ok, they couldnt feel any tumours and not to worry!

    So when she was discharged I was concerned that the bladder problems seemed to be returning, I rang her consultants secretary and the hospice and also spoke to the oncology gynae nurse who saw my aunt last year and they all said stop worring, its normal, she still has a small tumour which will cause some bladder irritation! They made an appointment for the community continence nurse to visit to give her some exercises etc, she still hasnt seen the nurse as she turned up one day without any prior notice and my aunt was out, the nurse has never come back!

    Over the last few weeks my aunt has developed a very nasty chest infection, what she calls a "graveyard cough", shes been coughing so hard that her GP thought she had pulled a muscle around her ribs. she was given 2 courses of strong antibiotics AND a course of steroids and after 6 weeks she's ok but still coughing a bit and still in pain.

    Her GP had the sense to order some blood tests which came back with low iron, low sodium and low potassium levels, she ordered a 2nd retest for a week later to check again and unbeknown to us referred her back to the oncologist - she obviously thought something was wrong!

    On my aunts birthday last week she got a letter saying she had to see the oncologist and we went together on Monday.

    The consultant examined her chest, checked where the pain was, listened to her breathing etc and did various internal exams which was very distressing and painful for my aunt.

    She then told us that the cervical tumour had grown considerably and was now at least the size of a cricket ball (a large orange) that it was about 1cm from her urethra and was pressing on her bladder, the cancer has spread to her bowel, to lymph nodes below her breat bone/rib cage (dont know the medical name) and also the ribs on her back, there is also a possibility of her liver?

    We are devastated and cannot understand how the hopsice Dr told her 2 and a bit months ago that all was well? Can this cancer have really spread THAT QUICKLY?

    The consulant says it is Grade 4, stage 3 which I understand is the most serious?

    My aunt is having a full body CT scan in the next few days and then we go back 2 WEEKS!!!! later for the results.

    The consultant mentioned more radiotherapy to control the back pain but she didnt say anything about chemo or other treatments? Am I right in thinking this is it, theres nothing else they can do?

    They havent said its terminal but the Dr kept saying "you know its incurable, you know its very serious", is that her way of saying put your life in order?

    Do they you tell you bluntly its terminal or are they going to tiptoe around us assuming we know what they mean?

    I cant begin to describe how shattered I feel for my aunt right now. She's this tiny little lady who has a HUGE personality, she's normally full of life and smiles and laughs and is so fiercely independent and adventurous and I dont want to loose her like this.

    Have they just given up on her because she's 80, do they just think she's had a good life, be grateful sort of thing? I dont know what I can do?

    Celeste



  • Hi Sarah

    Thank you for replying and sharing your story and I'm truly sorry to hear about your dad as well.

    It hasnt really sunk in yet for me and I feel desperately alone at the moment as my aunt has sworn me to secrecy as she doesnt want the rest of the family to know that things are very serious now which is why I've come on here.

    I've been on the Macmillan site and was reading about how to talk to loved ones about cancer and ways to offer support but at the moment I'm frightened in my own way and very conscious of the fact that I need to remain strong and positive for her by taking her to the hospital etc, I'm even considering asking her to come and stay with me if she has to have any more radiotherapy as I know last time she had terrible sickness and pain and although she lives in sheltered housing there's no one there at night and thats when she felt the worst.

    I just wonder how other family members deal with this, am I doing the right thing by her? I'm worried she'll feel smothered by me?

    I suppose we'll have to wait and see what happens with the CT scan but its the waiting and not knowing which is the hardest especially if her cancer is as aggressive as it seems.

    Celeste
  • just wanted to say my thoughts are with you ... it doesnt matter how old your loved one is , it still is a shock..

    The waiting is so frustrating ... My mum has been diagnosed with Womb Cancer and I too am getting very frustrated with the waiting for scans , results etc ...

    I think you are doing the right thing , being there for your aunt , letting you know you care .

    I hope you get good news and the cancer is holding off ..
    Best wishes to you, your aunt and family


    Karen
  • Thank you for the replies, I dont feel quite so alone now.

    Just a little update, had a call from my aunt this morning, she is having her CT scan tomorrow which is wonderful news as the consultant said it could have been a couple of weeks before she was seen! The hospital have even arranged transport for her which is good news as its my husbands birthday tomorrow and I would have found it tricky to go with her.

    We spoke yesterday as well as today and she seems very upbeat and jolly on the phone, she was telling me she won some tea tree shampoo in a raffle yesterday and was making a joke about not needing it if she has chemo and her hair falls out! She never fails to amaze to me with her positive outlook! :o)

    It's funny how all of a sudden everyone is falling over themselves to help her now they know the cancer is advanced! The community continence nurse is seeing her tomorrow morning to assess her for a catheter, the sheltered scheme manager has arranged for her used continence pads to be collected by environmental health (we've been asking for weeks as she has bags of them in the bathroom...not nice!).

    She's even going to a Hawaii theme party Saturday night dressed as a hula girl !!! I wish I could be there to take photos!

    Anyway I think we are both trying to make the best of the situation and not dwell too much at the moment before we know exactly what is going on. I know the road ahead is going to be long and difficult and I'm grateful I have found this forum because just be typing this little message I feel a bit better.

    Celeste
  • Another update...

    My aunt had a full body CT scan last Tuesday as she never got to the Friday appointment as the hospital transport never arrived! ggggrrrrr

    She had to go for an urgent blood test yesterday, I dont know why as I didnt go with her as the hospital had pre arranged a taxi for her but I have a horrible feeling that something has shown up on the scan that wasnt apparent when she was examined by the consultant - she did say there was a possibility the cancer had spread to her liver so maybe thats what the blood test is for?

    My dear aunt is really struggling with all of this and its breaking my heart, she seems to have constant diarrohea as well as the incontinence now. As well as that she was rushed in hospital last weekend with bleeding after going to the toilet, A&E couldnt do anything and as it was a different hospital to where she is being treated they didnt want to do anything and just gave her pain killers, it was awful!

    She's seeing the consultant next Monday for the results of the scan and blood test (3 weeks after the initial appointment!), which I am dreading to be honest.

    I wondered really what other people in a similar situation have done with regards to asking about life expectancy?

    My husband says if he was in this situation he wouldnt want to know how long he had left but I dont feel the same way, I would prefer to know then I could plan things, not just the practicalities but special things. I want to take her to the Passion Play in Oberammergau in Bavaria next year if possible?

    I dont know how to approach the subject with my aunt, she looks to me to ask the questions as I think all of this is confusing and overwhelming her which is understandable. Should I ask the consultant discreetly to one side or should I try and discuss this with my aunt before we go in to see the consultant?

    I'm finding this very hard...

    Celeste