General Question

casheroo's avatar

How can I find out what cancer a family member had before they passed away?

Asked by casheroo (18081points) August 16th, 2009

I’m on a search for information on the death of a family member.
My grandfather passed away in 1987. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1982, after years of heart attacks starting at age 36..he gets cancer :(
He had an extremely rare cancer, so rare they say only about 6 people had the cancer before him.
I’ve tried googling, but I’m not exactly sure what to look for. And his name isn’t really helpful, because I doubt when it was documented they used his name.
Is there any way to find out this information? It seems to be more curiousity than anything.
Also, I believe he died in Texas or maybe Florida. He wasn’t married to my grandmother, so the facts are hazy for me.
Thanks for any information!

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16 Answers

marinelife's avatar

His cause of death should be listed on his death certificate, which is a public record.

rebbel's avatar

I hope this is not stating the obvious, but is there not the possibility to ask his (then) doctor to have a view in his medical file?
Or ask one of his siblings?

Another thing to try is to write an email to a cancer-clinic or cancer-research-centre with the question what could’ve been a rare form of cancer in mid-eighties (with the numbers you wrote above).

casheroo's avatar

@Marina Would that list the exact cancer he had though? I know it’s what had to do with his death, but I’m betting complications is what actually killed him.

@rebbel None of his children know, or my grandmother. I’ve never met any of his other relatives, like his sisters or brothers (if he even had any) So, I’m not sure that’s a viable option.

asmonet's avatar

I’m sure your grandmother (presumably his wife) would be able to call his old doctor and find out? Surely, the records are somewhere. Even if they weren’t you’d think a doctor would remember running across something that rare.

casheroo's avatar

@asmonet They hadn’t been married for years. I think his second wife is dead as well. It seems no family member paid attention :-/
I found him on a death index, but nothing specific yet.

asmonet's avatar

Hmm, perhaps you could retrieve the records yourself?

babygalll's avatar

If you know which hospital he died at you can call them up and have the check the records. They should be able to help you. Family members have a right to know especially when doctors are asking us if there for the medical history of family. I would get on the phone with hospitals in the areas you think he died. Check the obituraries too. Those sometimes list information.

Garebo's avatar

I lost both my parents to cancer and they were diagnosed with cancer of the lung and brain -I have never been completely on board with that, but nevertheless the same conclusion is a highly probability of death once it has advanced, or whatever the word is, matasticied.
Unfortunately, you will have to see a medical report or record, abstract or conclusion from the hospital and then go forward with that. Lastly, the survivor’s, friends and coworkers may also give you some clues. If you know the drugs he was being treated for, his symptoms, how long he lived with this cancer, are all clues. I believe the problem with cancer, as some theorize, is that it is in all of us; and, it is just a matter of time and the right trigger (stress) before it chooses to go out of control.

SuperMouse's avatar

The exact cause should be listed on the death certificate. My mother’s listed ovarian cancer as the cause of death even though it was the cancer spreading to her liver that actually killed her.

nikipedia's avatar

Unfortunately, most hospitals destroy records after seven to ten years. I don’t think they’ll be of much help.

I would work on finding the physician’s name and searching articles he published in medical journals.

galileogirl's avatar

You can start with the death certificate but even if they state the kind of cancer it may not be completely accurate, He may have started with one kind of cancer but died of another kind.after the first cancer spread. Do you know about his illness because of something you heard as a kid? Even in the 80’s there was a shame/fear stigma attached to cancer, some people would call it ‘the big C’ ln a whisper. My Grandfather died of cancer in 1962 and my mother, a nurse, wouldn’t talk openly about it. I did overhear her say abdominal cancer once when she was talking to my Dad.

40 years later I was diagnosed with colon cancer and the Dr asked about family history and I told him about the abdominal cancer. He told me that was what they often called colon cancer because anything to do with the colon or bowels wasn’t talked about. Since I was under 60 he told me to advise fanily members they should be tested. 3 out of 4 siblings and 1 out of 3 cousins had precancerous polyps in the colon-another reason to know about your grandfather.

casheroo's avatar

@galileogirl I know about it because of what happened to him because of it. It started with a lump behind his ear, and he didn’t go to the doctor. I guess it spread before he got to the doctor, and he had to receive treatment. He was a very good looking man, but apparently the treatments turned his neck and face into “rawhide” as my family describes it. He was ashamed of what was happening to him, from what I’ve been told. I never knew cancer was something people didn’t talk about. I think my family just doesn’t know the specific name. They do talk about how rare it was, but that doesn’t really help me.

Garebo's avatar

That’s what happened to my Mom-she got a lump below her breast. I remember her showing it to me and we both knew it wasn’t normal. Soon thereafter, she was being treated with cobalt and chemo to no avail. She had a lung cancer, probably as a result of being a heavy smoker and the psychosomatic stress of my fathers death by cancer a year before. I know if I got it I would probably try alternative medicine such as Dr Budwigs treatment, or the Ojibwa Indian elixer Essiac before I would start any chemo.

margot23annie's avatar

@Garebo—- Um, no offense, but cancer needs to be treated quickly and scientifically if you want to survive. I wouldn’t waste time and a chance for recovery by using “natural” or folk methods exclusively. A doctor might agree to these methods in addition if they wouldn’t interfere with treatment.

blueiiznh's avatar

There is a National Cancer Registry that all data rolls up to the CDC. This is used by professionaly in their fight for treatment and cure.
Typing the cancer has gotten better over time, but 1982 is eons ago in the treatment, research, and even typing of cancers.
At this point due to HIPAA, you may have a hard time to get direct information on this out of the original diagnosis and 5 year treatment. You need to start with the closest relative.
A death certificate should list it if it was a complication of this cancer. But again, medicine and medical records have come so far in 20 plus years.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Does Multiple Myeloma sound right? It is quite rare.

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