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Hi all,

I’m desperately looking for some advice...

My 61 years old mom is a heavy smoker and had breast cancer 3 years ago that was successfully removed by surgery followed by radiation treatments. After that my mom refused to go to follow ups... 

As she is a very heavy smoker she always had a very bas cough but last year around July it got worse so we’ve made her do an X-ray that came back clear! In her blood test we saw the CEA level was 5.8 no more follow ups after this...

in May this year she had a fall and broke her shoulder she also started having very bad cough attacks throughout the day that was treated multipul times by antibiotics that did not help. we used this as an execuse for her to do a shoulder and breast MRI in addition to some blood test. Her CEA levels increased to 13 and the MRI showed a 4.3 c”m mass in the top of her right lung.

we are now waiting for a Pet scan and another round of blood tests..

I guess we it is definitely Lung cancer right?

And how can it be that at the X-RAY we did less than 10 months ago they didn’t see anything and now there is a 4.3c”m mass? Can a lung cancer grow that fast??

also, the fact that her CEA level is 13 necessarily means it is cancer??

I know the logic answer would be to just wait to get the results back but as you can imagine i’m Very worried and trying to get as much information as i can..

Really appreciate your answer..



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Welcome here.

I had an x-ray for a broken rib about 6 weeks before my diagnosis and nothing except the broken rib showed on the x-ray.  A diagnostic CT scan showed me to have a 7 cm by 2.5 cm tumor nearly filling the main stem bronchus of my right lung.  Lung tumors don't easily show on x-rays, so they are often missed.  That is why everyone with a smoking history is advised to have a diagnostic low-dose CT scan.

A CEA blood test alone is not definitive enough to confirm cancer.  It is an indicator but only a biopsy can diagnose lung cancer.  So, here is some information on the diagnostic process for lung cancer.  A PET scan is important confirm metastatic disease to determine the extent of cancer.  A PET is normally used to stage lung cancer and here is information on staging.

Now for the worried part, I was diagnosed almost 14 years ago.  I had 3 surgeries, chemo therapy and conventional radiation, 2 additional treatment cycles (6 infusions per cycle) of chemotherapy, and precision radiation -- just over 3 years of continuous treatment.  And, I'm still here.  Many of us are.  There have been so many treatment advances since I was diagnosed in 2003.  If I can live, so can your mother.

You'll have many questions and this is the place.

Stay the course.


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Hi Emilie and welcome,

Based on the tests your mom has had so far, I don't think that anyone can know for sure that she has cancer. Given the mass that was seen, it certainly sounds possibe and definitive follow up is needed. The PET scan is a good place to start. She'll undoubtedly need a biopay. Often this can be done by needle or by a bronchoscope (camera down the  broncial tubes). My biopsy couldn't be done that wsy because of the location. And my nodule didn't light up the PET scan either. But due to its suspicous appearance and the fact that I'd had two other primary cancers, surgery was recommended. A lobe of my lung was removed by VATS (video assisted) surgery and my surgery and recovery were much easier than I expected. My nodule was very small and i was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma stage 1a. 

I second everything that Tom said. If your mom is diagnosed with cancer, whatever type and stage it is, there is treatment and there is hope. There are a lot of new, recently approved treatments and many more in clinical trials, so the outlook for people with lung cancer is much brighter than it was as recently as 5 years ago. So hang in there with your mom and I wish both of you all the best. 

Keep us up to date and ask any questions you have. Tell us how we can support you. That's what we're here for.

Bridget O

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