When Will This Woman Need Palliative Care?

Betty R. Ferrell, PhD


February 08, 2012

Case Presentation: A Mother Diagnosed With Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Carlena is a 42-year-old divorced woman and mother of 3 teenaged children who was recently diagnosed with stage IIIB non-small cell lung cancer. She has been seen in a community oncology program and has been offered a treatment regimen of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Carlena tells the medical oncologist that she "will try anything" because she must survive to see her children grown. She presents with moderate fatigue, dyspnea, and a 20-lb weight loss. She is highly anxious but tells the nurse that she is trying to "pull it together" so that the physician will know she can handle the treatment. At her first clinic visit for treatment, she also confides in the nurse that she feels guilty for having smoked. She declines a visit from the chaplain and tells the nurse she is a "nonpracticing Catholic" and hasn't attended Mass since her divorce.


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