1. PollyP

    PollyP Registered User

    Nov 1, 2013
    My 91-year old mother has dementia - the exact type has never been diagnosed though it seems to present as Alzheimers. My brother has moved in with her and is her primary carer; he has a half hour visit from a carer every day and I go over for one or two nights twice a month to give him a bit of a break.

    Last week my mother found a breast lump. The GP saw her the next day and she got a very quick referral for tests, which happened today. We are waiting for the result of the biopsy, but my brother has been told that it's very likely to be cancer. If so, they do not recommend surgery (my brother and I both agree with this); they could however try chemo by tablet.

    I know that people with dementia are not likely to get cancer so this is possibly unusual. I'm very worried as to how things are likely to pan out. I'd really like to know if anyone has experience of caring for someone with both dementia and cancer or how we can get any advice or help as things proceed.

    Mum's short-term memory is practically non-existent; this means that she will not remember her condition. This may be a benefit in that she won't get upset by it but I can see that it might present problems in other ways.

    Any replies will be much appreciated!
  2. Jasmine123

    Jasmine123 Registered User

    Jan 22, 2014
    Hi PollyP

    I'm sorry to hear about your mother. My 60 year old mother has quite advanced Alzheimer's and recently got diagnosed with breast cancer. We can no longer explain anything to her and we can't really talk anymore so thought going down the chemo or anything at all invasive with be both logistically impossible and also the idea of it seemed awful. So went for a chemo pill (letrozole) which I have not noticed any side effects with.

    As I said the cancer is all pretty recent for my mum so I haven't much advice to offer about the long run.
  3. cragmaid

    cragmaid Registered User

    Oct 18, 2010
    North East England
    Hi Polly, sorry you've had to find us and more sorry that your poor Mum has been diagnosed with a double whammy. I think you will find that a surprising number of posters are dealing with a double diagnosis incorperating all sorts of cancers both male and female.
    My Mum died aged nearly 88 this year. Amongst her ailments were Mixed dementia and multiple metastases of melanoma tumours. I deliberately chose no further treatment, because a) she was too frail and b) I would not have her sujected to any further form of invasive treatment or even oral drugs ( although these were not suggested), her GP was in complete agreement.
    She was kept pain free and comfortable to the end.

    If an oral drug can be found to help to shrink Mum's tumour and not disturb her, physically or mentally, then I'd say give it a go, but if she reacts badly....please think again.
    Good Luck
  4. PollyP

    PollyP Registered User

    Nov 1, 2013
    Thank you for your response Jasmine. It's good to hear about the Letrozole though I know it's early days for you as well. I agree completely about conventional chemo or surgery - we just couldn't put Mum through it. Wishing you all the best - your mother is a good deal younger than mine (in fact she's younger than me). It makes it altogether sadder. At least my mother had a good life until well into her eighties.
  5. PollyP

    PollyP Registered User

    Nov 1, 2013
    Hello Cragmaid and thank you for your response. I had a quick look for relevant posts but didn't find anything - I'll have to search again because there may be useful threads.

    I'm sorry to hear about your mum, but I do find it reassuring that she was kept free of pain. That is one of my main worries. We'll wait for advice on the chemo, but if we do decide to try it we'll have to see how it works out. My main concern is that my mum shouldn't suffer - I know that everybody must hope the same for those they love.

    I hope things are OK with you.
  6. Liz57

    Liz57 Registered User

    Dec 22, 2013
    Hello Polly

    Just wanted to say that my 88 year old mum was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago and has also been prescribed tablets rather than any other kind of treatment. She's in a care home how and they're monitoring her closely but at the moment she's in no pain and no obvious side effects from the medication although I was warned it might make her a bit unsteady on her feet and her walking has deteriorated but then it might have done that anyway. Her Alzheimers is quite advanced. She doesn't know where she is or why but does recognise me, is eating well and joining in with the other ladies at the home so I'm not particularly worried about her. She certainly doesn't know what's wrong with her and doesn't seem to be concerned at all.

    The doctor at the hospital agreed that any invasive treatment wasn't really an option unless absolutely necessary.

    So, similarly early days but so far so good.

  7. Sianey

    Sianey Registered User

    Mar 23, 2015
    I didn't know there was a chemo pill, so it's good they are trying. My Mam has advanced bladder cancer as well and dementia and couldn't have surgery or radiotherapy as she is too frail. McMillan have been very good explaining things to me though and why she can't have certain treatments.

  8. underwood

    underwood Registered User

    Oct 9, 2015
    Hi Polly
    My 93 year old has dementia and last year also found a lump, which was malignant. She didn't know what to do.
    She called us all of the time telling us this one said this and that one said that and she just didn't know what to do for the best.
    We asked her what she thought, not what anyone else thought, she told us that at her age did it really matter, she was going out one way or the other. We said to her well there is your answer what way do you want to go out? 'I don't want to die of cancer!' Well there is your answer!
    Right I've made up my mind I'm having the OP! They removed part of her breast and told her she would have to have radiation treatment. She called us repeatedly, would it hurt? she was frightened etc.
    We told her that it didn't hurt, but said it would be better to have the treatment all in one go if she had the choice. Why? Because it will take you longer to get your clothes off than it takes for the treatment and that will really infuriate you . On the other hand since xxxx will be taking you, you could see if you couldn't have late morning treatment and a meal at wetherspoons on the way back.
    Either be annoyed at the time it takes to get undressed and redressed, or ensure you have 6 weeks of eating out once a week!
    'That's it I've made my decision I'm going out for lunch for six weeks'. For the next 6 weeks we had a phone call on her return telling us it was bloody ridiculous, why the bloody hell didn't they do it all at once? I spend longer in the changing room than I do in treatment! - But then old Girl you wouldn't be out to lunch once a week would you?
    She did absolutely marvelously. The only downside, is when she gets undressed/dressed and she sees that her breast is misshapen. That upsets her, until we go through the same call which is normally 'Have you got a booking for the catwalk today? No, Are you going out sunbathing in that skimpy bikini? No dear not today, so have you found that young gigolo or toy boy yet? No dear (She's normally giggling at this point). OK then so, so far nobody is going to see you in the nuddy? And you don't intend to do a Lady Godiva down the street? Oh no dear its far too cold. Well what's all the fuss about then? - I'm being bloody stupid aren't I?, Sweety I'm 50 my boobs have drooped and my **** is pearshaped. You on the other hand have a pert bum, you have an asset! I dooooo? Yep and just remember missus if you do find a toy boy he's likely to be 80+ and chances are he's got cataracts or has long since given up chasing after women for nooky! By which time she is laughing away, telling me I'm encourageable. We hear no more of it for several weeks and then one day it gets her down and we start all over again.
    She really did come through it very well and cannot remember the treatment, but often gets cross that xxxx used to take her for lunch but now can't be bothered!
  9. Cat27

    Cat27 Volunteer Moderator

    Feb 27, 2015
    deleted wrong thread
  10. wobbly

    wobbly Registered User

    Feb 14, 2012
    Mid Wales
    hi all, the Letrozole is not a chemo treatment, it is one of a new group of drugs prescribed to people who are post menopausal and have hormone sensitive cancer, called A.I's....aromatase inhibitors.....the pre-menopausal equivalent is Tamoxifen which has been used for years. Its used to try and shrink the tumour before surgery for instance. It does not have anything like the effect chemo has on your body and personally having gone through surgery and chemo etc I would not recommend it for anyone elderly and especially with dementia and don't think many doctors would.....you can't underestimate the effect and in my eyes there would be massive suffering :( A lot of elderly people have a slow growing less aggressive form so maybe the medication would do good...lets hope so, its so hard all this without throwing cancer into the equation......wishing you all the very best..:)
  11. wobbly

    wobbly Registered User

    Feb 14, 2012
    Mid Wales
    radiotherapy is usually every day, well mon to fri for a few weeks and def takes it out of you, plus you are also recovering from a big op, even the lumpectomy is a wide excision to get clearence and unless you do the regular necessary exercises afterwards many are left with a def weakness on the affected side.....it all adds up.....
  12. PollyP

    PollyP Registered User

    Nov 1, 2013
    Thanks very much for all replies. I must admit, I'm not sure what kind of tablet was mentioned (my brother was there; I was not). And I do know that whatever it is might not be considered suitable in any case. Mum's follow-up appointment is next Thursday (22 Oct) and we will know more then. It's just good to have contact and support from people who have faced similar situations. I know that Mum was seen very quickly, but it still seems a long wait and all kinds of things are going through my mind.
  13. Bettyboob

    Bettyboob New member

    Sep 11, 2019
    Hi I took my mum today for mammogram she has vascular dementia. They told me she has breast cancer. They said they would probably treat it with Tamoxifen, or Letrozole sorry not sure how to spell. These treatments are normally given with chemo, and surgery. Some cancers feed on oestrogen so I believe they block it and bring on menopause in younger women. These drugs will help control cancer but can't cure it. My mum is 76 they won't want her to suffer so I believe will avoid invasive treatment. But sadly I don't know yet how effective this treatment will be on its own and how effective it will be in stopping cancer spreading. Anyone have any idea of it's effectiveness
  14. Toony Oony

    Toony Oony Registered User

    Jun 21, 2016
    Hi @Bettyboob - my Mum has Vascular Dementia and is about 10 years older than your Mum, but about 5 years ago I was so proud of her when she found a lump and told her GP. We went through the various consults and needle biopsy and they confirmed it was breast cancer and thought it had spread to lymph nodes. The consultant wanted to surgically remove, but Mum wasn't keen on the idea and neither was I. The Vascular Dementia was really making itself known, Mum was severely depressed and I thought she had enough to cope with.

    They were able to treat with daily Letrozole and we were told Mum would be on this for life. One of my very good friends is a retired GP. She told me that in cases such as Mum's, these drugs are good and usually something else 'carries the person off' well before the breast cancer - in her experience, the treatment is usually very effective. So Mum took her tablets and when we went to the first follow up there was minimal change in the lump - which we were told was exactly as expected. The drugs take far longer to take effect (obviously) than the 'cut it out' method. By the time we went for the second check up, the lump was reducing in size and we were told not to bother coming back, unless the lump enlarged or Mum showed further symptoms.

    That was about 4.5 years ago. Mum still takes the Letrozole daily but is now at end stage dementia. If the lump is still there, it is the least of our worries!
  15. Bettyboob

    Bettyboob New member

    Sep 11, 2019
    Hi Toony thanks for your reply sounds really promising taking my mum back tomorrow for more tests etc see how they want to treat her.
  16. molliep

    molliep Researcher

    Aug 16, 2018
    Hi @Bettyboob,

    We have a sub-forum on Dementia Talking Point called 'Caring for a person with dementia and cancer' that you may find useful for information, advice and peer support. It's a sub-forum located within the forum 'I care for a person with dementia'. You can find it >here<

    We've held two expert Q&As on the sub-forum with Lorraine Burgess, the only Macmillan Dementia Nurse in the UK, which have been really informative and helpful. You can find them >here< and >here<, Lorraine's answers begin on page 2.

    Hope this helps,

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