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Lung Cancer

Spot on lung

09/08/2008

Question:

Dear Doctor: My friend passed away yesterday at the age of 71. She used to smoke but quit a couple of years ago. She has always been healthy. Well, 2-weeks ago she went into the hospital and was diagnosed with a "bleeding ucler." She was treated and sent home. Within a couple of days she turned "yellow" and returned to the hospital. They examined her and said she had a "spot" on her lung and that it has gone to her kidneys, thus she died within a week. My question is: "Could something like that (cancer) happen within 2-weeks or had it been growing for some time? I am truly devastated over her death. She was like a 2nd mother to me. Thank you so very much for your time.

Answer:

Lung cancer does not grow that fast. While it is can be an aggressive tumor, it would not evolve over a matter of weeks. It sounds like there are a number of problems that may be inter-related. Lung cancer can spread to other parts of the body and cause many problems. But there could be other explanations. If the patient's next of kin (or other legally authorized representative) would like more detailed information, she or he has a few options: call the primary physician's office and ask if that doctor might summarize what happened; request medical records from the hospital-the history and physical (admission note) and discharge summary (or death summary) are particularly helpful documents; or ask the hospital's patient relations department to set up a meeting to summarize the events. In most cases, the cause of death has a reasonable explanation and the hospital appreciates the opportunity to review the situation with the family/friends in order to help them understand what happened. After all, when a person is very sick, a lot can happen in a short period of time, making it challenging to communicate the details to the family. Also, sometimes the situation is so complex that the family gets immersed in the details and loses sight of the big picture. In summary, do not hesitate to ask questions, even after the events have transpired.

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Response by:

Michael F Reed, MD Michael F Reed, MD
Assistant Professor of Surgery
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati