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Has anyone heard of this type of Cancer?

Moms View Message Board: General Discussion: Archive May 2006: Has anyone heard of this type of Cancer?
By Heaventree on Sunday, May 14, 2006 - 02:23 pm:

My cousin's wife has been diagnosed with cancer, but I don't understand what type of cancer it is.

Here is what my other cousin sent me in an email:

Cori, sorry, but things with K are not good. I don't really understand it all but she doesn't have actual lung cancer. She has skin cancer on the lung? I spoke with D and he wasn't doing that well. I didn't get all the details. They had a teleconference with a surgeon from G this past week. He said she has fluid around her lung. The actual cancer is inoperable. They're going down to G this coming week where they will drain the fluid and put in some powder (?). Then they are going to go in through her neck and take a biopsy of her lymph nodes. They want to do radiation and chemo but the chances of those two things actually doing something is only 1%. K has to decide if she actually wants the treatment. I spoke to her and she said that if she was ever in this situation she would not want treatment. It's only to prolong the inevitable. There was no good news. They were told she is in stage 4(b) of the cancer.


Has anyone heard of this type of cancer? I tried to do a search online but didn't come up with much.

Obviously inoperable and stage 4 are not good signs, however my cousin lives in a small city and is going to another small city for further evaluation, I wish they would go to a larger centre where they treat more specialized cases on a daily basis.

They are actually talking about having a funeral before she dies so she can attend. What a mess, I just can't believe this is happening, she's only 42 years old and has two beautiful daughters.

I would sure appreciate any information on this if you have heard about this type of cancer before.

By Hlgmom on Sunday, May 14, 2006 - 04:31 pm:

I have not heard of it but I am so sorry for your cousin and her family and you. You will all be in my thoughts!


By Karen~moderator on Sunday, May 14, 2006 - 05:07 pm:

The only thing that comes to mind is Melanoma.

Diagnosis of Metastatic Melanoma

Rarely, some melanomas spread so quickly that a person can have melanoma spread to the lymph nodes, lungs, brain, or other areas while the original skin melanoma is still small. Melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic) may not be found until long after the original melanoma was removed from the skin.

When such spread has occurred, the metastatic melanoma in certain organs might be confused with a cancer starting in that organ. For example, melanoma that has spread to the lung might be confused with a primary lung cancer (cancer that starts in the lung). There are special tests that can be done on biopsy samples that can tell whether it is a melanoma or some other kind of cancer. This is important because different cancers are often given different treatments.

Procedures and Tests to Detect Metastases

Fine needle aspiration biopsy: A fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy uses a syringe with a thin needle to remove very small tissue fragments from a tumor. The needle is smaller than the needle used for a blood test. A local anesthetic is sometimes used to numb the area. This test rarely causes much discomfort and does not leave a scar. An FNA biopsy is not used for diagnosis of a suspicious mole but may be used to biopsy large lymph nodes near a melanoma to find out if the melanoma has metastasized (spread). Sometimes a computed tomography (CT) scan (a special type of x-ray; see below) is used to guide a needle into a tumor in an internal organ, such as the lung or liver. This test can be used if the doctor suspects the melanoma has spread to these organs.

Surgical (excisional) lymph node biopsy: This procedure is used to remove an abnormally large lymph node surgically through a small skin incision. Local anesthetic is generally used. This is often done if a lymph node's size suggests spread of melanoma but the FNA biopsy did not find any melanoma cells.

Sentinel lymph node mapping and biopsy: This has become a standard procedure for diagnosing melanoma that has spread to the lymph nodes in patients with more advanced melanomas. This procedure can find the lymph nodes that drain lymph fluid from the area of the skin where the melanoma developed. If the melanoma has spread, these lymph nodes are usually the first place it will go. That is why these lymph nodes are called sentinel nodes (it stands sentinel, or watch, over the tumor, so to speak). These lymph nodes are then checked for any spread of melanoma.

To map the sentinel lymph node, some time before surgery the doctor injects a small amount of radioactive material into the melanoma. By checking various lymph node areas with a radioactivity detection device like a Geiger counter, the doctor can see what group of lymph nodes your melanoma is most likely to travel to in order to find the sentinel lymph node. Then the doctor injects a small amount of a harmless blue dye and radioactive chemical into the site of the melanoma. After about an hour, a surgeon makes a small incision in the identified lymph node area. The lymph nodes can then be checked to find which one has turned blue or become radioactive. When the appropriate sentinel node has been found, it will be removed for microscopic examination. If melanoma cells are found in this lymph node, the remaining lymph nodes in this area are surgically removed. If the sentinel node does not contain melanoma cells, no more lymph node surgery is needed.

If a lymph node near a melanoma is abnormally large, an FNA or surgical biopsy of that lymph node is done and the sentinel node procedure may not be needed.

Imaging Studies

These imaging tests are not needed in people with very early-stage melanoma.

Chest x-ray: This test may be done to determine whether melanoma has spread to the lungs.

Computed tomography (CT): The CT scan is an x-ray procedure that produces detailed cross-sectional images of your body. Instead of taking one picture, like a normal x-ray, a CT scanner takes many pictures of the part of your body being studied as it rotates around you. A computer then combines these pictures into an image of a slice of your body. This test can help tell if your melanoma has spread into your liver or other organs. It can also better identify spread to the lung than the standard chest x-ray.

Often after the first set of pictures is taken, you may be asked to drink 1 or 2 pints of a contrast agent, or dye. This helps outline the intestine so that certain areas are not mistaken for tumors. You will need an IV (intravenous) line through which the contrast dye is injected. This helps better outline other structures in your body. A second set of pictures is then taken.

The solution you drink and the injection can cause some flushing (redness and warm feeling). Some people are allergic and get hives. Rarely, more serious reactions like trouble breathing and low blood pressure can occur. Be sure to tell the doctor if you have ever had a reaction to any contrast material used for x-rays.

CT scans are more tedious than regular x-rays because they take longer and you usually need to lie still on a table for 15 to 30 minutes while they are being done. But just like other computerized devices, they are getting faster and your stay might be pleasantly short. Also, you might feel a bit confined by the tube you lay in when the pictures are being taken.

CT scans can also be used to guide a biopsy needle precisely into a suspected metastasis. For this procedure, called a CT-guided needle biopsy, the patient remains on the CT scanning table while a radiologist moves a biopsy needle toward the location of the mass. CT scans are repeated until the doctors are confident that the needle is within the mass. A fine needle biopsy sample (tiny fragment of tissue) or a core needle biopsy sample (a thin cylinder of tissue about ½-inch long and less than 1/8-inch in diameter) is removed and examined under a microscope.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI scans use radio waves and strong magnets instead of x-rays. The energy from the radio waves is absorbed and then released in a pattern formed by the type of tissue and by certain diseases. A computer translates the pattern of radio waves given off by the tissues into a detailed image of parts of the body. Not only does this produce cross-sectional slices of the body like a CT scanner, it can also produce slices that are parallel with the length of your body. A contrast material might be injected just as with CT scans, but it is used less often.

MRI scans are very helpful in looking at the brain and spinal cord. MRI scans are a little more uncomfortable than CT scans. First, they take longer -- often up to an hour. Also, you have to be placed inside tube-like equipment, which is confining and can upset people with a fear of enclosed places. The machine also makes a thumping noise that you may find disturbing. Some places provide headphones with music to block this out.

Positron emission tomography (PET): Positron emission tomography (also called a PET scan) uses glucose (a form of sugar) that contains a radioactive atom. A special camera can detect the radioactivity. Cancer cells in the body absorb high amounts of the radioactive sugar because of their high rate of metabolism. PET is useful when your doctor thinks the melanoma has spread but doesn't know where. PET scans can be used instead of several different x-rays because it scans your whole body. Doctors find it most useful in people with advanced stages (see below) of melanoma. It is not very helpful in people with early stage melanoma.

Nuclear bone scans: In this procedure a radioactive substance (in very low doses) is injected into a vein. The radioactive substance concentrates in the bones where the melanoma has spread.

The American Cancer Society contains a lot of info, as does the National Cancer Institute. Also, another site which appears to have some useful info: Cancernet.

The thing is, any cancer can metastasize to other parts of the body, and the lungs, bones, brain and liver seem to be primary targets. It's an elusive disease in many cases, and many times the primary site of origin is not discovered.

Staging is determined by a number of factors. Stage IV is commonly *end stage*, though there are survivors of stage IV cancers. Some cancers respond very well to surgery and treatments such as chemo and radiation. Also, a lot depends on the overall general health of the individual.

What you have posted is not a lot of info to go on. My mom had primary non-small cell adenocarcinoma of the lungs and when she was first diagnosed, she was classified as stage IIb. In the end, hers metastasized to her brain and bones that we know of, and possibly other organs. She had a full course of radiation to her lungs and 2 courses of chemo - each using different agents. In the end they tried a course of brain radiation, but it was too late by then.

I would suggest you start googling and learn what you can. Also, Chemo Angels is a wonderful volunteer organization that can provide some smiles and support to the person with cancer. They were a Godsend to my mom. Check them out, sign her up. I just recently signed up as an *angel*.

I am so sorry for your entire family. I lived the cancer nightmare for over 3 years. It is hard on everyone involved. You all need support. Please, feel free to email me if you want, even if it's just to vent. I mean that sincerely.

By Debbie on Sunday, May 14, 2006 - 05:19 pm:

{{{hugs}}} My grandfather was diagnosed several years ago with Melanoma cancer. It had already spread to his lymph nodes by the time it was detected. He went through surgery to remove the cancerous tumors and had several rounds of chemotherapy. This was 12 years ago. They didn't give him a high chance for survival, but he is still alive today! It sounds like this is what your cousin has, melanoma that has spread to other parts of her body(lungs)

Your entire family will be in my thoughts and prayers. Cancer is such a horrible disease.

By Ginny~moderator on Sunday, May 14, 2006 - 08:43 pm:

I was thinking melanoma before I read Karen's informational post. Yes, melanoma can do that. That's why we need to have our skin checked every 6 months or a year - when you get your annual checkup you should ask your doctor to do a skin check, and keep track of any changes.

By Dawnk777 on Monday, May 15, 2006 - 12:02 am:

Yes, me too.

By Jane3000 on Monday, May 15, 2006 - 04:51 pm:

I have never heard of this type of cancer, either, but I will include your cousin's wife in my prayers. Have you ever wondered why there is so much more cancer than there used to be? I grew up in the 50's & 60's and you rarely heard of a child with cancer and very few young adults with cancer. It was an old people's disease. It would be nice if there could be a preventative as well as a cure.

By Heaventree on Monday, May 15, 2006 - 09:56 pm:

Thanks everyone for the information, your kind words and support. I talked to my Aunt today and it's just to early to know exactly what is going on. She is going to a brand new Cancer facility tomorrow where she will under go a bone scan and a brain scan, apparently the cancer has spread to her lymph nodes.

Karen thanks for all the info and links, I'll have a look and see if the Angel program is here in Canada.

By Karen~moderator on Tuesday, May 16, 2006 - 07:40 am:

Cori, they do have *international* angels. Check it out. What they do is, they send out weekly cards/letters, sometimes small gifts, just things to brighten the spirits of the person. Lots of inspirational stuff - some of the angels are former cancer patients, some are former caregivers (like me!). It's just another way to provide encouragement and support to someone who needs it most!

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