Father just diagnosed

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1/2/2018 5:24pm
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Replies: 3

My 85-year-old father was just diagnosed with melanoma after having a very large mass (6cm+) removed from left armpit 3 weeks ago.  We are unsure of the primary.  He also has a large mass in the lower lobe of his right lung which has not been biopsied but is suspected to be melanoma.  In March he had lymph nodes biopsied in the left armpit but they were erroneously diagnosed as squamous cell.  In 2016 he had squamous cell of the right salivary gland and the gland was removed.  He attempted chemo for the squamous cell but was unable to withstand more than the one infusion.  He is not attempting treatment for the melanoma. Since he is not attempting treatment, his oncologist is unwilling to order a PET scan.  Without this scan we cannot know the current spread of disease or a prognosis.  My father resides in rural MS and is not willing to travel to a large metro area where a melanoma specialist could be consulted. At present he is in no pain and does not seem to exhibit any signs of possible mets to the brain.  I would greatly appreciate any comments on prognosis that anyone can offer.  

Janner - (1/2/2018 - 7:56pm)

My father was diagnosed at age 81 with stage II.  He didn't want any of the surgeries but I did convince him to have wide margins taken.  We didn't test the lymph nodes.  Fast forward about 5 years where he had a palpable lump in his armpit.  Again, he didn't want a lot of treatment so we cherry picked the enlarged node only.  (He also had 3 other types of cancer - lung, prostate and thyroid.  Lung was treated with 3 doses of radiation only and the prostate was managed with medication).  We had done scans all along monitoring all the cancers but the other 3 were basically stable when he had his enlarged node.  We also stopped scanning because the only one is was really benefitting was the family, not him.  And he hated sitting still long enough for the scans.   We saw evidence of more spread on his skin, but we just let it take it's course.  He passed away at age 89.  The good and the bad of being old is sometimes even cancer cells grow slower.  He really had minimal symptoms overall until about 3 months before his death.  He could no longer walk.  I'm not actually sure that was melanoma's fault, it could have also been arthritis and mets to the hip for the prostate cancer.  Cognitively, not really sure he ever had brain mets - or if he did, it was late in the game.  Most days, he had no issues cognitively.  He ended up in a care center for the last month or so of his life because my elderly mother could just not manage him when he became bed-ridden.  The thing is, there is really no way to know how quick or slow or where it will go and what symptoms he will have.  To this day, I assume melanoma was the actual cause of death but I can't know for certain.  But he made it at least 3 years from removal of his lymph node.  With your father already having lung mets, it's probably a little further in the game.  But he doesn't have to experience lots of pain or cognitive issues --- or he could.  This is where the ride is very individual.  Good luck!

Toby0987 - (1/2/2018 - 9:16pm)

That’s a tough one.  Even if someone on here was the top melanoma specialist in the country there is. I way of telling how long your Dad will hang in there. Make sure he understands that melanoma is a real angry cancer and without treatment he will die from it. If he is unwilling to get treatment then it’s time to get his affairs in order-will, Dnr orders, doing everything he wants to do and if it were me getting a good Christian pastor that can help him and his family with his transition to Heaven. He could live a few months or years. Basically his call-he’s been around 85 years he knows what he is getting into. If he was my Dad I’d present him with the facts and then let him make an informed decision. 

Toby0987 - (1/2/2018 - 9:19pm)

If I was him and 85 I’d do the same thing he is doing. I’m not Big on Hospitals and chemicals. I’d be happy for the time I have and not pollute it with hospital visits and what ifs. I’d make my peace and run it.