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Dr. Andrew Rynne

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Cancer close to spine. Will it be cured by radiation and chemo? What is the life expectancy?

Answered by
Dr. Stephen Christensen

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :1986

Answered : 212 Questions

Posted on Sat, 15 Dec 2012 in Cancer
Question: My husband is in the hospital with cancer for 19 days. It is very close to his spine. They would do back surgery but say it probably would not help him. He tries to to to his radiation treatments but somedays he can stand to lay flat because of the pain. Last night he told me he had the dry heaves for hours and could not sleep. Without radiation & chemo he would die. My question is what can I expect, how much time does he have left?
Answered by Dr. Stephen Christensen 3 hours later
I'm so sorry your husband is ill. It isn't clear from your question whether his doctors are trying to cure his cancer with radiation and chemo, or if they're only trying to "palliate" it, meaning they're trying to reduce his pain, make the tumor smaller, and buy him a bit more time. It also isn't clear what type of cancer he has; some cancers are far more aggressive than others, which has a great deal of impact on a patient's prognosis. Even knowing these details won't necessarily help in predicting your husband's ultimate course. Some cancers -- even the aggressive ones -- may respond very well to treatment, so patients might have a longer life expectancy than was originally anticipated. On the other hand, we are sometimes disappointed when a cancer doesn't respond as well as expected, and patients (and their families) have even less time than we'd hoped.
I suggest you pose these questions to your husband's oncologist. He or she is intimately familiar with your husband's case and will have a better idea about what's coming down the road.
I'll be available to answer additional questions. My best to you and your husband.
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