Life expectancy


Hi, my mom has been diagnosed with T4, N2, M1a lung cancer (secondary larynx cancer) 2 areas in right lung and in wall lining, unsure if spread as no further tests. She has lost 6lb, very breathless, unable to walk more than a few steps, unable to concentrate and in a lot of pain in back and chest, also very lethargic.No one has advised a time frame. Mom thinks she is going to live for years and does not want to ask how long she has and will resent me for advising the statistics therefore at appointments I cannot ask. She has been offered immunotherapy. I understand you cannot state exactly how long but just so can prepare, have you any idea how long she has left with and without treatment instead of me just looking at statistics (statistics state around 8months). I’m unsure if the treatment will provide quality especially if only has a short time left. Many thanks in advance.



Hi Becky,

I’m very sorry about your mom diagnosis. It’s been said by the best of oncologists that they are notoriously bad at predicting life expectancy. If the stats show 8 months without treatment for the type of cancer your mom has that means half the people lived longer. There’s been excellent studies that have shown longer survival with hospice care. So if your mom isn’t going to try treatment it’s excellent she will move directly into hospice/comfort care.

With treatment it would be even more difficult to guess how long she could live. If she were a candidate for immunotherapy and did very well she could do well and feel better for months or even years. It sounds like she has head and neck cancer so there really aren’t targeted mutation therapies yet.

Depending on her performance status (how well she is according certain guidelines) she may or may not be a candidate for treatment. Immunotherapies do have side effects but usually less severe and different than chemo. A single agent chemo would be much less difficult than a platinum doublet and some people have little to no side effects given the prophylactic treatments to manage side effects. Radiation is often used to mitigate cancer symptoms such as pain from bone mets.

There was about a 3 or 4 year period not long ago when my husband and I were dealing with his immanent death. He is still here and appears cancer free, a very lucky outlier. However during that time I learned how important is was for him to not know everything and how typical a need that is for anyone dealing with advanced cancer. Here is a link to a few posts,

I usually apologize for not having an answer but I don’t think I’m going to say that this time. I don’t think I could live day to day with any kind of real knowledge about how long I or someone I loved would live. Somewhere in the next year or so is bad enough.

All best,

Anonymous (not verified)

Many thanks for your knowledge and sensitive reply and I’m so happy your husband is still here to tell the tale! Maybe your right that no knowledge may keep a more positive mind frame rather than dwelling on bad news. Thank you