My mother is told she has less than a year due to her cancer, but she's still not sick. When does that happen?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Jannette13 asked...

My Mother has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. It was caught when it metastasized to her hip. This was in August 2010. The radiologists, two of them, told me she has less than a year. She has Alzheimer's also. My question is she is not been sick. When will she get sick? And how long does she have? Thanks for any help you can give. I want to know what I am looking at.

Expert Answers

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

With stage 4 lung cancer, very few patients will live one year or more and so doctors give that warning. As for when will someone with stage 4 lung cancer show signs of illness, that is hard to answer. Many people look fine for a while and then start to get short of breath. That shortness of breath can proceed rapidly or slowly depending on where the cancer is. There may also be pain or not. There is no way to really predict when your mother will start to have symptoms but with stage 4 lung cancer, it is likely to be sooner rather than later and proceed fairly quickly over months and not years. There is also a possibility for sudden events like blood clots to occur, however that can rapidly speed up the progression of illness.