My sister is in the hospital

We are not close. We are so not close that I call her my evil sister and I haven’t heard from her – my other sister (the good one) got a call today, and gave me what little news is available.

She had such severe rectal bleeding that she went to an ER. They say there is a very large growth in her rectum – test results due tomorrow will supposedly determine whether or not it is cancerous. I don’t have much faith in her commonsense ability to ask reasonable questions, and she doesn’t have other family out where she is to ask questions for her. She’s in Phoenix AZ.

From what she says, the growth is so large that they will treat it with radiation to shrink it before removing it, whether or not it is malignant. I have never heard of such a thing, and I wonder whether she got the facts wrong, whether they’re not telling her the whole story for some kind of morale purposes, or whther this is just something that is done but I haven’t heard of.

I feel fortunate that I can get expert medical advice for just about anything as I work in a hospital. On Wednesday morning I will be providing technical support to the “tumor board”, which does peer case reviews of patients in the 3 hospitals in town. I’m going to spring a surprise patient on them. I hope by that time to have a little more diagnostic information availble.

I’m concerned about the hospital she’s in, which has no clinic for cancer treatment. But I suppose they will refer her to a better-equipped place for follow-up treatment.

If anyone can think of good questions to ask my local docs, please let me know.

I have a few questions already like:
Is doing radiation treatment to a non-cancerous tumor a real option?
If it is cancer, what are the likely outcomes and the odds of them?
If it’s NOT cancer, what are the likely outcomes and the odds of them?
Can they give me a name of a good specialist out in Phoenix?
Is she going to be able to maintain herself in her home without help during radiation treatment?
How long will she need assistance in the home before and after surgery?

I have two sisters, and the other one was diagnosed with early stage melanoma a couple years back. So far, no recurrences-- luckily it was detected extremely early.

And until a couple of years ago, I would have said there is no family history of cancer.

Does she have insurance? If she doesn’t, how will that affect the care she is given?

Even if you’re not close, I’m sorry your family will be hurting.

Sorry to hear your bad news. :frowning:

Both treatment and outcome prognosis are totally dependent on what stage the cancer is–whether it’s grown into the rectal lining, and if so, how far, whether it has spread to the lymph nodes, other organs, etc.

Treatment by Stage of Rectal Cancer.

Your next step would be to get a “Stage” estimate from her doctor, to give you a better idea of what’s going on.

You also need–now, or at least, tomorrow–to make sure you get your name on her various Important Papers as “the person who is allowed to have personal information about her condition”, since otherwise medical personnel may invoke the HIPAA privacy thing and refuse to tell you anything, since you’re not a spouse or parent. It needs to be in her chart–don’t settle for a simple verbal assurance from the doctor, “Oh, yes, we’ll certainly keep you apprised.” When it’s 2 am and the hospital staff won’t tell you why she’s being sent down for more surgery, you need to have it in writing that you are allowed to Be Told.

Yes, sometimes they shrink tumors with radiation before attempting to remove them. It is a standard medical procedure which gives a better outcome.

However, a rectal tumor is not always malignant, so you also need to get on board with the biopsy tests when they come back (I’m assuming that of course they would have taken a sample for biopsy).

Side effects of radiation therapy. A lot depends on what kind of radiation it is, her baseline health, her tolerance for feeling miserable, etc.

As for assistance after the surgery, again, it depends on how much of her colon they have to take, whether she ends up with a colostomy, whether she has additional chemotherapy afterwards because the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs. It’s way too soon to tell; the thing with cancer is, you literally have to take it one day at a time. No reputable doctor anywhere at this point is going to even think about giving you a definite prediction as to what’s going to happen, or what her prognosis is.

And of course it could turn out to be a benign tumor, and post-operative care will involve nothing more complex than the usual aftermath of major surgery, mainly terminal grumblies and wishing-to-be-spoiled can’t-you-see-I’m-sick whinies. :smiley:
Start with what stage she’s at, then get the biopsy results. That’s enough for now.

I don’t have any medical advice, just wanted to say I’m sorry to hear that. I hope that if you haven’t gotten yourself checked lately that you can do so. You and your family will be in my thoughts.

Sorry, Jim. Do you know if she has any close friends in Phoenix?

I don’t know but I doubt it. She only moved there a year or so ago.

Sorry to hear about her situation and about the family estrangement.
Of course, no one here can say what she has without having any personal knowledge of the case, but just to prepare yourself for what might be involved, here’s another overview of rectal cancer.
I can understand it is scary when a relative has a potentially serious illness, but considering how your relationship is, you may want to hold back until she invites you to get involved. She does have a right to privacy and may not appreciate it if you offer unsolicited advice even though it’s well-intentioned. When she’s feeling sick and scared, the last thing she needs is family drama on top of that.
Anyway, hope things turn out well for her and the family.

Thanks for all your kind thoughts and information. The only new news I have is no news. She came home from the hospital today, but still hasn’t received a diagnosis. Maybe tomorrow…