We understand that people with cancer are worried about coronavirus. Here is the latest guidance. We will update it regularly.

Ask a nurse

Do you have a question about cancer? One of our Cancer Information Nurse Specialists will aim to respond within 2 working days.

Mums lung cancer

Sand_ly
Posted by

Hi, 

My mother was diagnoised with untreatable lung cancer a year ago this month . She has been not too bad during the year . 

Now though she has a large lump on the left side of her neck near the coller bone which has been getting bigger during the last4 weeks, yesterday she woke up with a swelling on her right arm. During the last few weeks she has some leg pain which is like a trapped nerve , then after two days it went away. She also said she gets night sweats too, breathless, and very tired , my sister said she doesn't eat much and last few days had blood when she wipes after going for a wee. 

They have contacted her Dr but when the Dr asked if mum has someone with her to tell her whats wrong she told her she doesn't want to know. 

I do believe this is the cancer obviously but mum has been ignoring it and has had a good attitude and thought the Dr made a mistake , is there any way to know how long she has left as Im aboard and because of the covid 19 I have no clue when I can get back home . 

I appreciate any response . 

kind regards 

Sandra 

Ellen M-Macmillan
Posted by

Hi (Sandra),

Thanks for getting in touch with us. Firstly, we would like to apologise for the delay in getting back to you. We aim to answer questions within a two-working day period, but unfortunately the notification about your question was missed.

We’re sorry to read about your mum, no doubt not living in the same country will be making the situation for you even harder to bear.

If your mum hasn’t been seen by a doctor, or if her symptoms are persistent or getting worse, we would advise you to talk to your sister. It’s important that she calls NHS 111 so that she is reviewed today by a doctor today.

If your mum is having difficulty breathing or her condition is deteriorating, it’s important that your sister calls 999.

It’s understandable why you would want to know what is happening with your mum and how long she may have left to live. These are questions that we often get asked but are the ones that we find the most difficult to answer.

As nurses on this type of platform it’s hard to say exactly what is happening to your mum, but we would be concerned about the type of symptoms that you’re describing.

You’re right to think that her symptoms may be connected to her cancer. When someone has a lung cancer and notices a lump in their neck at their collar bone, making their arm swell, then we would be concerned that this would be due to their cancer.

There is a condition called Superior Vena Cava Obstruction (SVCO) that needs to be ruled out as the possible cause of her symptoms.

You also mention that your mum has been complaining of leg pain like a trapped nerve, this can also be caused by a cancer. Somepeople may develop a Malignant Spinal Cord Compression(MSCC) if their cancer has spread to their bones affecting their spinal cord. This is a rare condition, but is must be ruled out.

I’m not saying that your mum’s symptoms are caused by any of the above, but they do have to be ruled out, and she needs to be seen by a doctor urgently to be assessed.

It’s also important that she has her other symptoms reviewed by a doctor too.

Wanting to know your mum’s prognosis is natural so that you can plan what to do next. The situation is much harder for you due to Covid-19 which is making travelling much more difficult.

It’s difficult for us to predict how long your mum may live for. Even the doctors who are looking after her and know her individual situation can often find it hard to. This is because everyone’s cancer is unique to them, but the doctors looking after her may be able to give you an “average figure” based on their experiences of looking after patients in similar circumstances.

It can be difficult to get information when your mum doesn’t want to know or give permission for you or your sister to talk to them. You could both try and speak to your mum again to ask if she would let you talk to her GP.

Being away from home can be isolating, some people find talking to others going through a similar experience helpful to do. We have a very supportive family and friends group here on our Online Community that you can join.

You could also give our Support Line a call and talk to one of our nurses. Our contact number if you’re call from abroad is  +44 207 091 2230. Please note that calls to these numbers are not free when made from outside the UK.

Best Wishes and take care.

Ellen-Cancer Information Nurse Specialist.