How long can my Mom live with stage 4 metastatic bladder cancer?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom has stage 4 metastatic bladder cancer. She had surgery 23 months ago to remove her bladder/complete hysterectomy. Last January she was given a year to live when the doctors found the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes in her left groin area and chest. Everything had been fine until last October when she had back problems, then we found out the cancer had spread to lymph nodes in the back. At this time she went on hospice, at the suggestion of her oncologist. Everything was fine until the first of June this year when she began having swelling in her left leg. It was finally diagnosed as lymphedema. Now she has lymphedema in both legs. Hospice didn't feel it would be beneficial to do lymphedema therapy due to her active cancer. A lymphedema specialist I have talked to is also uncertain it would be beneficial and may cause additional problems. When the lymphedema started we also started having problems with her urostemy bag. The feeling of the ostemy nurse I have talked with feels this is most likely due to the extra protein in her body with the lymphedema and that she is in bed much more now. My biggest questions are how can I expect the lymphedema to progress? What is the best thing to do for lymphedema (it is pitting edema to almost the knees)? What is the best thing to do for an ostemy bag that doesn't adhere because the adhesive is being deteriorated by the protein in the urine other than change it daily? And my biggest question is how long can someone be expected to live with stage 4 metastatic bladder cancer?

Expert Answer

Dan Tobin, M.D. is the author of books and articles focused on the practical and positive aspects of family caregiving.


It is clear that you are facing a difficult and complex situation. In our 8 step method for family caregiving the first step is understanding the doctors' treatment plans.  It will be helpful to ask your Mom's treating physicians the exact questions you post. They will tell you what they think is the best treatment for her cancer and lymphedema.

it is very hard to predict how long she will live. I suggest talking with all the health counselors you can find. That includes her doctors, nurses and anyone from hospice who is trained to help you with the emotional and spiritual questions around dying. Most of all, your support for your Mom and the good times spent together will create strong positive memories. Try and see how valuable your support is and take care of your self .

Dan Tobin