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Old 10-11-2012, 09:22 AM
9,454 posts, read 15,015,271 times
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My grandmother died in 1965, I was only 10 years old, so I don't remember all the details.

Her official cause of death was leukemia, complicated by congestive heart failure. However, I suspect she really had breast cancer.

Back then, nice ladies didn't have breasts. They were sexualized objects, only acknowledged on low-lifes, etc. Women simply didn't talk about them (but men sure could!).

The diagnosis of leukemia just doesn't fit what I remember.I don't believe they did masectomies (sp) back then. I just remember her being in a lot of pain, and frequently in the hospital. Grandmother's sister died a few years before her, they just said from a 'wasting disease".

I was wondering if it would be possible to obtain my grandmother's medical records. I know the dates, hospital, and doctor's name. It would be useful information for my own health care choices. Has anyone obtained a deceased relative's medical records?
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:06 PM
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Hard to say without more details (?) Have other family members had breast cancer? Are you concerned about your own risk or just curious? I just lost a family member to luekemia - the fmaily memeber had a vouple of hospitalizations prior to death by heart failure, FWIW

I know what you mean sort-of - my husband's grandmther was "hospitalized" pretty young and my MIL and her sister have hd some challenges (personality disorders) - I'd love to know what their actual dx's were now that I have a daughter!
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:33 PM
Location: N of citrus, S of decent corn
34,549 posts, read 42,724,437 times
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I think the main point here is that if many of our grandmothers and great grandmothers had breast cancer, they didn't know it. They didn't have the diagnostics that we have today. Both my sister and I have had breast cancer and we wonder, was there really no prior family history, or was there, but we didn't know it?
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Old 10-11-2012, 02:36 PM
Location: Northern panhandle WV
2,250 posts, read 1,745,861 times
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My grandmother died in 1958 of bone cancer several years after double mastectomy for breast cancer, her sister died of the same thing again after mastectomy in 1954. So yes they did mastectomies a lot before 1965 and they knew all about breast cancer and it was talked about though not as much as today I will grant you.
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Old 10-11-2012, 02:50 PM
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They knew in my grandmother's era. They are only 70ish. Even my great grandmother who is 90 would have been in her 50s during the 1960s, and they were able to diagnose cancer. Not the multiplicity of types and origins that we have now, but they have been able to take a biopsy and diagnose a malignancy for a long time.
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Old 10-11-2012, 05:18 PM
Location: John & Ken-ville
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On the death certificate filed with the county or state there should be an official cause of death.
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Old 10-11-2012, 07:29 PM
Location: Georgia, USA
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The radical mastectomy technique was developed by a surgeon named William Halstead, who first used the technique in 1882. Remember that general anesthesia only dates back to the mid nineteenth century. It took a while for that to make it possible for surgeons to refine methods beyond things like amputations, which were best done quickly and crudely.

But breast cancer has been described for thousands of years. Untreated, it ulcerates and becomes very obvious.

Cancer as a whole was not amenable to treatment with much hope of cure until the late twentieth century, so people were unlikely to discuss it much. That does not necessarily mean that they did not know they had it.

Lucky Gem is right. Your best source of information is a death certificate. When you order it, make sure to specify that you are a descendant and you want an unredacted copy. Some vital records offices will issue redacted copies to anyone doing genealogy research. I have certificates on all my ancestors for whom they are available. The first set was redacted. I had to get them to redo all of them.
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Old 10-11-2012, 10:29 PM
Location: Volcano
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My grandmother died in 1958 of breast cancer, after having a radical mastectomy. I was a child, but my memories of that time led me to make Breast Cancer Research my #1 charitable donation over the years.

If she had a Social Security # you should be able to get a copy of her record from their Death Registry, which will list the cause of death.
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Old 10-22-2012, 04:21 PM
Location: Kansas
19,189 posts, read 14,068,763 times
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My husband's mother died of leukemia at age 35 in 1973. She was ill off and on and they had no idea what was wrong for some time. Back then, the treatment was not very successful. We were able to get her death certificate to see if there were other issues. We were not able to get her medical records because no one had them anymore and we talked with her doctor, in his 80's and he did not remember anything. Our concern had to do with other possible mental health issues and medications that she was taking.
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Old 10-26-2012, 05:54 AM
Location: St. Louis
9,457 posts, read 16,412,550 times
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On getting her medical records: I don't think you can. I read something recently, and wish I could remember what it was but it was about a historical figure who lived a couple of hundred years ago and apparently some historians wanted to open his medical records and couldn't because of hepa(sp?) laws and I was like, what? It seems to go back in perpetuity.
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