METRO — Millions of people around the world are living with cancer or living as cancer survivors, with millions more receiving a cancer diagnosis each year. Cancer treatments have evolved considerably in the 21st century, and more people than ever before are surviving the disease and going on to enjoy healthy, successful lives.
But sometimes cancer treatments prove unsuccessful. In such instances, cancer patients, their families and their medical teams must decide if prolonging treatment is in the patient’s best interest, and that decision can be heartrending.
It can be very challenging for cancer patients and their families to accept that treatment may no longer be effective. This is a period of deep reflection, and the American Cancer Society says patients will have to make some difficult decisions, including when to end treatment. Cancer patients may find that assessing their priorities in the wake of ending treatment can help them make the most of the time they have left.
Sometimes decision-making is a collaborative effort that involves a patient’s medical team. In such instances, someone on the cancer care team or a mental health professional can help patients organize their priorities.
Side effects of treatment can be quite limiting and affect quality of life, and choosing to terminate curative treatment may initially improve how patients feel. When patients choose to end cancer treatments, they may opt for palliative treatments that can help relieve pain and help them make it through their remaining days.
Accepting terminal cancer is never easy. Patients must decide if prolonging life and dealing with the side effects of treatment is how they want to spend their final days. Such a decision is extremely personal and can feel very isolating. But cancer patients trying to make this difficult decision should lean on their families, friends and medical teams to make the best decision possible.