Help required to understand Gran's treatment

Help required to understand Gran’s treatment

Help required to understand Gran’s treatment Hi

My Gran was diagnosed with breast cancer in March, she is 83. She and my grandad struggle to take in what the doctor is telling them and they cannot answer my questions when I ask what grade or stage the cancer is at.

I’m a bit confused over the treatment she is being given. She was put on Tamoxifen in March for 6 weeks. She has been back to see the doctor this week and has been told that the tamoxifen has had no effect, she has now been given anastrozole (Arimidex?) which she has to take until the end of August and she has been told that if this does not have the desired effect then she will have to consider either a mastectomy or radiotherapy. Is this normal treatment? I have read through the forums and the usual route seems to get to radiotherapy or chemotherapy or surgery much quicker, is her treatment less invasive because of her age? Or would it have something to do with the grade or stage of the cancer?

It’s very difficult as I know I’m not in full possession of all the facts, I guess it makes me worry even more because you imagine the worst.

Grandad’s attitude to the whole thing is quite shocking. Whenever the subject is discussed he just keeps pressuring gran and saying “just 'ave yer breast off!” and I don’t know how to make him understand what a massive thing this is to a woman.

Gran hates hospitals and doctors and desperately doesn’t want to have the operation, I feel it is a very traumatic thing for an 83 year old to go through and want to advise her towards radiotherapy if required. But it is just so difficult to know what to do for the best.

I would be grateful for any advice from anybody who has been through this with somebody of a similar age…

Thanks in advance.

Helpline Dear fidget21

I am sorry to read you are having such a difficult time and just wanted to suggest that you may find our helpline useful to contact for further support and someone to talk to about your grandma’s treatment plan. The helpline is open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm and Saturday 9am-2pm on 0808 800 6000.

Kind regards
Forum Host
Breast Cancer Care

hi fidget21 hi fidget sorry to hear about your gran i am going through treatment myself and we all have different types of treatment depending on the type, stage,grade, etc and if we are pre- menapausal or post menapausal. i think the reason your gran cant tell you much is because she wont know, i think the doctors only tell you if you ask. i think because of your grans age chemotherapy will not be an option as a friend of mines mam is in her 70s and she was told she wouldent be having chemo because she would not be strong enough. i think they have your grans best interests at heart and they are trying to avoid mascectomy and this is why they have been giving her tamoxifen and armidex as they can help shrink tumors before surgery. and if they work by shrinking the tumor then your gran might be able to save her breast by having a different type of surgery and radiotherapy. why dont you go with your gran on her next visit and speak to her bc nurse who can tell you exactly whats happening , as i am only guessing the reasons why she is having armidex before surgery. please let us know how she gets on take care xxx suzee

Hi fidget

Your poor gran - she must be so frightened and confused.

If I were you I would contact her breast care nurse - we are normally allocated one when we are diagnosed - and ask for an appointment so you can go with her and try to find out what is going on.

Your gran has probably been given an information pack (mine is blue) with useful contact numbers in it. Breast care nurses are there as much for the emotional side of things as the physical and they are normally really nice and more than willing to accommodate your wishes.

I suspect that your gran’s treatment regime has a lot to do with her age. She may be less able to tolerate chemo - or even surgery - especially if she has other health problems. It is worth bearing in mind that older women often has less aggressive tumours than younger women (making their prognosis a lot better) so I suspect her doctors feel there is time to try a less aggressive treatment initially.

It is normal practice not to get a lot of information about the pathology of a tumour following diagnosis. They don’t use the staging system in the UK any more and it is unusual to get any doctor willing to predict the grade from biopsy alone. They will normally wait until after surgery to be sure.

As for your grandad - well he is a man of a certain generation who sees things in simplistic terms. Part of him probably thinks he is taking stress away from your gran by saying he doesn’t mind if she has her breasts removed. He is also undoubtedly pretty scared and, in his naivity and ignorance of modern medicine, just thinks that if she ‘has em off’ she will be cured.

It’s such a shame to put people of your grandparents’ age through this but at least they have their loving granddaughter looking out for them. Be their advocate and push for answers.

Good luck.

Lola x