A new study, published on July 23rd, by Weill Cornell Medical College suggested that advanced stage cancer patients do not benefit from chemotherapy and should not persist with a treatment that will only lower the quality of their life.
It’s difficult to dissuade a person from the last ray of hope while their life is rapidly coming to an end and oncologists face this issue every day. Late-stage cancer patients who have less than six months to live receive what is called palliative chemotherapy, which has found to have minimal benefits on their health or survival.
Chemotherapy is a form of medical treatment for cancer patients that implies the injection of potent chemicals into the body in order to destroy cancer cells and hopefully shrink the tumor. Its more common side effects are well known to cause nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anemia and hair loss, which severely affects the quality of a patient’s life. However, the possibility of sending the tumor into remission and a few more hopeful years of life is worth it.
Research suggests that the same does not apply in late-stage cancer patients. Over 300 patients who had approximately four months to live at the average age of 59 years old, participated in the study, at the end of which family members were inquired about the quality of their lives during their last days.
The results showed that palliative chemotherapy did little to nothing in regards to improving their final days and actually worsened their abilities to perform simple tasks. Whether the patient was doing well by performing small day-to-day tasks or unable to even walk, the treatment drastically decreased the quality of their life.
And the possible benefits of extending their lives did not apply. Around 70% of the patients who were not on chemotherapy actually had better abilities of enjoying their days with their families, even with four months left to live. The study suggest that oncologists have been advising treatment with the belief in mind that everything was worth trying as long as it didn’t harm them. However, it seems it did cause side effects and no benefits.
The research advises that doctors and oncologists alike should strengthen their resolve in stopping chemotherapy for late-stage cancer patients, though it is difficult to deny access should the patient request it. Even with the unfortunate warnings of its unlikely benefits, some still cling to the hope that the treatment will work and might offer them a few more months to live.
It’s an impossible request to deny, with parents wishing for that little bit of time to see their children being married or their grandchildren born. It would be understandable that oncologists are reluctant to recommend against further treatment and cut away at any hope.
Nevertheless, the findings suggest that they should remain firm against what is known as the “most wasteful and unnecessary practice in oncology” and recommend advanced stage cancer patients to cease chemotherapy and instead enjoy their last days to the fullest extent along with the people they love.
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