How can I help my mother deal with the lumps in her breasts?

2 answers | Last updated: Nov 20, 2016
Martha clark scala asked...

My mom is 88 years old, and she has lumps in both breasts. She refuses to have an MRI done. Her doctor knows about these lumps, but mom has told her doctor that she does not want to do anything about them because she is too old. What should I do?


Expert Answers

Martha Clark Scala has been a psychotherapist in private practice since 1992, with offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco, California. She regularly writes about grief and loss, the necessity of self-care, and substance abuse. Her e-newsletter, "Out on a Limb," is available to subscribers through her website.

It may be that all you really can do is nothing. You could respectfully express your unhappiness and concern about your mom's decision, but it may not change her mind. It is indeed unfortunate that without an MRI, you don't know if her breast lumps are benign or malignant, and if they are malignant, how aggressive the cancer is, or not.

It might help if you contact her doctor to ask for an opinion about the decision your mom has made. However, bear in mind that she is in charge of her own medical care, and is entitled to make decisions that may be unpopular to those who care about her.

Given your mom's age, she has probably witnessed what happens when an elderly person undergoes treatment for a life-threatening illness. She may have seen friends, neighbors, or relatives who've actually gotten sicker from treatment. This might leave her reluctant to face a similar outcome.

Unless you feel she is unfit to make such decisions about her own medical treatment, you may have to find a way to make peace with your mom's wishes. Perhaps she prefers to live the remainder of her life with as little medical intervention or invasive therapy as possible. If that's the case, it might be wise to turn your attention to making her remaining time comfortable and peaceful rather than engaging in conflict with her about this. This course of action might ensure better quality of life for both of you.


Community Answers

Cassie13 answered...

i know what your going though mt mom is 87 and she is the same why i just went thoygh breast cancer and chemo an she will not have anything done it has to be their decious and we have to let them do what they feel is best for them even if its not i know going threw the cancer you have to make up your own mind and i wanted to live so i do everything i can to stay alive i lost my hair after the 1st chemo treatment my mom was so upset because of it but i told her bald is beatiful.us pray and hope she will change her mind