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Recent Cancer diagnosis for my mother

Posted by


I am after some advice if possible thankyou.

2 or 3 weeks  ago my 86 year old mother found a couple of lumps in her breast and has now had a biopsy and mammograms.

She was told that she had 2 tumours in her breast and in a normal world need a mastectomy but due to Covid and her age there was no chance of that either NHS or privately.  She's been prescribed hormone drugs which she's been told will help 'control' but not cure the cancer.

She was told anyone over 70 had no chance of an op.  However, I know of one person over 70 who is currently on a waiting list for an op albeit no date yet.  It could be she was diagnosed pre covid era,

but I am confused and want to question why my mother been given this advice -  can we really not get her on waiting list now even privately/anywhere ? Is everyone diagnosed in the last month being given this answer?

Sorry for my ignorance but I am new to this.

Thanks for any advice.

rgds jd

Ellen M-Macmillan
Posted by

Hi ,

Thanks for getting in touch with us and welcome to our Online Community.

Please don’t apologise and we don’t think that you’re ignorant at all. It can be a very difficult time when you’re supporting someone you love with a cancer diagnosis.

It’s understandable why you’re feeling confused about the information that your mum has been given.

Decisions about treatments for breast cancer are made by a group of experts called a multi-disciplinary team.

During the Covid-19 pandemic hospital teams are having to make difficult decisions based on whether it is safe to give individuals treatments that could potentially put them at risk if they were to get the virus.

They are having to consider the risks versus the benefits of different treatments on an individual basis.

In the pre-Covid-19 era, your mum may have been offered a mastectomy as her first treatment to remove the cancer. But surgery is risky and can affect someone’s ability to fight infection.

The team are looking at individuals when they are deciding the best treatment options. It’s not uncommon to offer a hormone therapy in the first instance as this is a safer option and doesn’t affect the immune system. It also prevents someone from having to go into hospital and minimises their risk of catching the virus.

Pre Covid-19 hormone drugs were given before surgery (neo-adjuvant) to shrink a cancer before surgery. They can be very effective drugs if someone had an oestrogen dependant breast cancer. The drugs can stop the cancer from getting its feed, it can shrink the cancer, but at the same time go all around the body and attack any small microscopic cells that may be present elsewhere.

Because doctors know that these types of drugs can do this, depending on an individual’s situation they it’s not unusual for them to suggest this as an alternative approach whilst waiting for services to return to normal and for the risk of the virus to be reduced.

They must consider the individuals risk if they were to contract Covid-19 when making treatment decisions. They should be reassessing your mum’s situation and if the risk was an acceptable risk, and it is safe for her to have surgery then she should be considered for that option.

We have this information about cancer treatment and coronavirus explaining how treatment decisions are made. There is also a short video from a clinical oncologist on the page talking about breast surgery decisions about that can be reassuring to view.

There are many people over 70 having surgery for their breast cancer, decisions should be depending on the individual’s situation.

With your mum’s permission you can ask if you could speak to her Dr or specialist nurse about the decision that has been made and to get clarity about no surgery for over 70’s.

If you’re not happy with the reasons that her team are given you can ask for a second opinion, but given the current pandemic it might be more difficult to access a NHS hospital appointment.

Whilst we can’t recommend any private hospitals you can use this search engine to find private healthcare if you want your mum seen privately.

Talking to others going through a similar experience can be helpful to do. We have a very supportive breast cancer group that you can join. The group also supports family and friends of someone diagnosed with breast cancer.

We also have a Support Line that you can contact on 0808-808-0000 and talk to one of our nurses. Our lines are open every day from 8am till 8pm.

Best wishes and take care.

Ellen-Cancer Information Nurse Specialist.