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surgery effect on alzheimer's
21cooper posted:
BACKGROUND: My mom, age 86, diabetic & healthy except she has alzheimer's & breast cancer. She lives in a nursing home & has a wonderful attitude on life. She knows her children, remembers parts of her past. She tells us she will be thinking of something & realize she is confusing her childhood with the present. She will repeat something 5 times in 10 minutes & doesn't know what she did 30 minutes ago. I would say her AD started at least 15 years ago, but very noticeable for the 5. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 months ago. They said it is very small, but they could not say a stage or if it is aggressive or not. We have talked to 3 doctors, they all say she needs a mastectomy. She wouldn't be able to handle lumpectomy & radiation. QUESTION: Does surgery can deepen alzheimer's? A few siblings wonder if it would be best to leave the cancer, pray it doesn't grow for a few more years, & let her happily enjoy the rest of her life. They have heard surgery would deepen or change her AD & that she may spend the rest of her life unhappy or angry. I would say it would be better to go deeper into AD than suffer cancer. Please help us with your comments.
cjh1203 responded:
Hello, 21cooper. You're right to be concerned about your mother undergoing surgery. Even in elderly people without dementia, anesthesia can cause severe cognitive problems. Usually, the effects are temporary but sometimes they are permanent.

For someone with Alzheimer's, anesthesia can make it worse. Here's one article about the subject, and here's another .

Only you and your family can make the decision, of course, but I tend to agree that, especially given your mother's age, surgery might not be the best choice. Even if the surgery were to save her life, she might end up with a worse quality of life than she has now.

It's a tough decision to have to make. Maybe you could make an appointment with someone at your local Alzheimer's Association to discuss the situation, or talk to a doctor who specializes in Alzheimer's.

Best of luck to all of you. I'm sorry you're in this sad situation.

Judith L London, PhD responded:
Hi 21cooper,

You are wise to check out the risks about surgery. Does your Mom have a health care directive? She sounds 'with it' enough in the moment to be involved in the decision-making process so that she can express her feelings.

You could ask her if she wants to know what's going on with herself health-wise. You could review with her the risks of her memory getting worse versus the impact of not doing anything. It still is her body, and her life.

Knowing your Mom, what do you think she would want?

There are no clear-cut answers here, that's for sure,

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