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Less care better for end-stage cancer patients facing death?

Many Pittsburgh residents have a family member or friend who has suffered from a cancer diagnosis. Because of the excellent medical care offered in Pittsburgh, many of those afflicted with cancer are able to go into remission. But not all cancers can be cured and thousands of people throughout the country die each year from cancer. According to a new study, less care for those who have end-stage cancer may be better for the patient up until their death.

The study by JAMA Oncology found that for patients who are in the final stages of cancer, chemotherapy does not offer any medical benefit. It also does not increase the patient’s quality of life. Many patients who are given chemotherapy at the end of their life have a decrease in their quality of life. Many oncologists believe that there is no harm in trying another chemotherapy regimen, but for many patients there is harm. Chemotherapy should only be given if it will extend a patient’s life or make their life better.

Families who have a loved one going through cancer treatment can feel overwhelmed with all the medical interventions, specialists, and other medical issues that are going on. It can be hard to understand what all is going on and it can change daily. Unnecessary medical treatments can lead to a patient’s worsened medical condition and additional stress on the family.

Patients who are near the end of their lives due to cancer may be better off not receiving cancer treatments. Although doctors often want to do whatever they can to help a patient, sometimes giving them more medical treatment makes their quality of life worse. According to the recent study, it can be inappropriate for medical providers to give hope to families by giving more chemotherapy when there is none.

Source: The Washington Post, “Getting chemotherapy near the end can actually make life worse“, Carolyn Johnson, July 23, 2015