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Oct 3, 2013 04:37AM
Oct 3, 2013 04:38AM
Jodi, I'm so sorry about your mother.
To your question, "are there many people out there that have heard of breast cancer speading this fast?" the answer is "Yes", that can happen. Two years from diagnosis to passing away is short, but it does happen that way sometimes.
What most likely happened is that your mother had a very aggressive cancer that started to spread shortly after it developed in her breast. So even though the cancer in her breast might not have been too large and even though her nodes were clear, it's likely that a few cells from the cancer moved into her bloodstream years ago - well before she ever knew she had breast cancer - and those cells travelled to all those other parts of her body and took hold there and started to develop. The role of chemo is to try to kill off any cancer cells that have moved into the body, but if there are too many of those cells, it's just impossible. So unfortunately, by the time your mother was diagnosed, it's quite likely that the die was already cast. The cancer in the other parts of her body might have been too small to be detected at that time (I don't know if your mother had any CT or PET scans at the time of her original diagnosis) but they almost certainly were already there.
You mentioned that your mother had wanted a mastectomy but her doctors didn't feel that it was necessary. Given how quickly she succumbed to the cancer, the doctors almost certainly were right. A mastectomy wouldn't have made any difference because in all likelihood the cancer cells had moved beyond your mother's breast well before the surgery was done. This is why so many studies have shown that the survival rate is the same whether one has a mastectomy or lumpectomy - it's not the cancer cells in the breast that are dangerous; it's the cancer cells that have moved into the body that are dangerous. Usually this stealth movement of the cancer cells into the bloodstream (or the lymphatic system - even if the nodes appear clear) happens well before anyone even knows that they have breast cancer.
As MelissaDallas said, most breast cancer is not genetic. Was your mother post-menopausal or pre-menopausal when she was diagnosed? If she was pre-menopausal, then there is a greater risk that her cancer might have been genetically caused, but even at that, unless she was very young, the odds are much greater than her cancer was random. As for the type of cancer or whether it's was a rare type or a more common type, that wouldn't really indicate much in terms of whether your mother's cancer might be genetic. BRCA cancers (the most common genetic mutation) are more likely to be triple negative (ER-, PR-, HER2-) but most women diagnosed with triple negative cancers are not BRCA+. And some women who are BRCA positive have ER+/PR+ cancers or HER2+ cancers. Additionally, to my understanding (someone can correct me if I'm wrong), two people in the same family who have the same BRCA gene might each develop a different type of breast cancer. So even if your mother's cancer was genetic, it doesn't mean that you have inherited the same gene, and if you have, it doesn't mean that you would get the same type of breast cancer.
I will second Melissa's suggestion that you see a genetic counsellor. One of the things that the counsellor will want to understand is the full family health history on your mother's side of the family - her siblings, parents, etc. - in order to determine if there is a likelihood that her cancer might have been genetic. If there are no other cases of breast cancer, ovarian cancer or prostate cancer (and a few other cancers) in her family, then it's much less likely that her cancer was genetic, and that you would be also be at risk.
I hope that helps.
Dx 9/15/2005 Right, 7cm+, DCIS-Mi, Stage IA, Gr 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR- ** Dx 01/16/2019 Left, 8mm, IDC, Stage IA, Gr 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2- (FISH) ** Surgery 11/30/2005 MX Right, 03/06/2019 MX Left ** Hormonal Therapy 05/2019 Letrozole