Chemotherapy for the elderly

Mum is nearly 83.  She has had a mastectomy and sentinel node removal recently for an invasive tumour which is grade 3, HER2 positive and one intrammamry breast node was found to have vascular invasion with micrometasis.  She was referred to an oncologist post surgery who has suggested chemotherapy FEC-T followed by Herceptin. This has been a shock.  We expected the surgery to give her the all-clear.  


We need to make a decision in the next 2 weeks about treament.  I am concerned about the side effects of chemo on an elderly patient.  She is not particularly frail but has a number of medical issues which are not life-threatening.  The oncologist said she will remove the ‘F’ element of the chemo treatment as this was more likely to affect her heart (she has high blood pressure which is managed).  


Does anyone have any experience of chemotherapy for the elderly?  As well as the physical effects, I am also concerned about the emotional effects.  I am Mum’s primary carer and advice would be really appreciated. Thank you.



I have no experience of this, but am sure if you contact the helpline you will get some great advice.
A multidisciplinaryteam (MDT) should have reviewed all the info re your mum and plotted the best course of action for her considering all angles but maybe ask for a second opinion? Breast cancer has many different types, this is why planning treatments is so specifuc to each person.
Good luck, do not be pushed or hurried to make decisions, but also be aware they are trying to provide the best care in their view for your Mum.
Keep in tiuch.
LL xx

Hi there, I am new to this forum, but have read quite a lot of the threads which has given me a bit more hope for my mum, she is 78 and diagnosed with breast cancer in jan, she had a mastectomy and lymph node removel in feb, which she sailed through and had been feeling really well, so when we were told it had spread to her liver and lung we were in total shock. She was given letrozole for a month but it didn’t help at all, so she was told she needed chemo, we wrer a little unsure if she should goo for it because she feels so well and chemo makes you feel so unwell but the oncologist said if we leave it too long the cancer in her liver would be too big to treat so mum agreed to have it, she is going to be on three weekly pacitaxel with one week of to rest, she is starting it tomorrow, we are all so worried about how she will cope with the side affects. But I suppose we just have to take the advice of the oncologist as they are the experts and just be there for our mums and do what we can to help them x


Hi BlestG, just wondering how your mum is getting on and if she has made any decisions about her treatment, mum started her chemo last Wednesday, she’s on weekly pacitaxol for three weeks then a week off then it starts again. The first week went pretty smoothly, no side affects other than being extremely tired and feeling like a zombie for three days. She had her second dose this Wednesday but had a really bad reaction while it was being administered, my brother was with her at the time, he said she turned almost purple and couldn’t breath, it was really scary for them both but the nurses were brilliant and gave her a few injections and oxygen and within no time she was feeling better. Apparently its quite commen on the second dose of this chemo and they are pretty sure she will not have a bad reaction again. I stayed with her last night and again other than feeling tired she was absolutly fine, the anti sickness tablets they have given her seem to be working wonders and she hasn’t lost any hair yet but we are expecting it, I just hope the chemo will get the cancer stable or even better, shrink it, hope to hear from you soon x

Hi BlestG thankfully mum has a week off before the next lot starts, so she can feel a bit more herself hopefully. And thank you LL for the info, I will also have a look xx


Hi blestg, mum had to have another week off from chemo as she had cellulitus in her foot so she started the docetaxel on wenesday, no bad reactions but it has really knocked her sideways, we had to take her to the hospital on Friday with a high temperature, they kept her in over night, she now has pnuemonia and a urine infection, she’s on antibiotics. She’s feeling sick, has an upset tummy and she is really weak, she’s not interested in eating which is really worrying because she has already lost quite a bit of weight, hopefully she will start to feel a little better soon, how is your mum, has she started her chemo yet x

Hi so sorry to hear about your Mum. She is going through it isn’t she. Chemo is very tough on everyone especially the elderly. I do hope she picks up soon. My mum had her chemo about 10 days ago. She had 2 episodes that needed medical help. The first evening we had to call the paramedics as her temperature dropped she nearly fainted felt sick and had trouble breathing. Shr was taken to hospital a few days later with stomach problems and nearly passed out again. They sorted her out quickly and was able to come home 7 hours later. It has been stressful but apart from being very tired she has not felt sick which was whst she worried about. I dont know how long she will keep going with the treatment. Hopefully we will know what to expect next time. Sorry for delay in reply we are out of the area right now and my phone has patchy internet. I am thinking of you, will becom touch soon xx

Hi it is very hard to know what to do for the best. You want the best outcome for your mum but she is the one having to endure the awful side effects and feeling so ill. Have you had a discussion with her oncologist about what to do? My mum likes Lucosade and ginger biscuits if that is any help. She also has frozen fresh pineapple chunks in the fridge which help when she feels queasy and stem ginger also helps. She is eating OK, lost some weight but think that is to be expected . Her skin is starting to show signs of the Chemo not lost her hair yet but we have a wig fitting next week at the Macmillan Centre in the hospital. Think the key is to try and support them as best you can so they do not get depressed. Bought Mum some plants for the garden by mail order and she is looking forward to getting them. When she feels up to it I will arrange a session of aromatherapy with someone I have been in touch with who knows about Mum’s medical condition. Hope you are taking care of yourself too it is very very tiring and very stressful looking after your mum going through this treatment. Hope she feels better soon xx

Hi blestg, this is really weird because I was only wondering about your mum at the weekend and made a mental note to myself to get in touch, I can’t remember what was going on with mum the last time we spoke. She had to be taken off the docetaxol as it made her really I’ll and ended up in hospital, also when they did the scan the cancer had got a little worse so it was time for a change anyway. She is now on cape, which is in tablet form and she finds it a lot easier to cope with. She doesn’t feel I’ll but she is struggling with the tiredness, also she’s not sleeping very well, when she lays down in bed she gets really aching legs that keep her awake, and she’s become quite breathless, she is exhausted, we have to take her everywhere in the wheelchair, she has problems with her legs anyway but its now a lot worse, other than that she’s had no other side effects, no sickness or upset tummy, just very tired, how is your mum doing on the docetaxol?,is she coping ok? X

Hi blestg, I’m so sorry to hear your mums cancer has spread, this disease is evil isn’t it, its good that you are spending as much time with your mum as you can, I’m doing the same. You never know what’s round the corner. Mums not been too good today, she had no sleep again last night because of the pain in her legs, her breathing was bad tonight and she’s hardly eaten today, we’ve got a nurse coming to see her tomorrow from our local hospice just to see if there is anything she needs so I will have a word about it. I really hope your mum is able to take the hercepin and that is helps her, thinking of you both xx

Hi blestg, mum became really I’ll on Monday and sadly she passed away last night, I’m absolutely devastated, she decided last Thursday that she didn’t want any more chemo because she had been feeling so unwell, the onc agreed, we took her to the hospice on Monday for the day clinic, but she was so I’ll they put her straight to bed, they wanted to keep her in but she was adament she wanted to be at home, me and my brothers decided not to have help from carers and to nurse her ourselves because she didn’t want strangers washing her and taking her to the toilet, we all three stayed with her all the time, she got so poorly she couldn’t even stand, we had to lift her on and off the commode, we all tried to talk her into going in the hospice as we were worried we wouldn’t be able to give her the care she needed, but she said she wanted to die at home with her kids with her, the dr prescribed morphine to help with any pain, when she passed we were all holding her and her cat hayley was snuggled up to her, it was very peaceful and she was in no pain, I am going to miss her so much, we were almost joined at the hip, I’m sorry to pour all this out to you but I thought you would want to know, I hope all is going well your end xx 

Thank you for your kind words, I will definately keep in touch x