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Advanced Cancer & Chemotherapy: Is it really helping you live longer?

Being diagnosed with an advanced cancer that is terminal is scary and many tough decisions need to be made regarding chemotherapy and how you want to live the rest of your life.  You’re often rushed into the common process for an advanced cancer diagnosis, which includes an onslaught of doctors appointments that are quickly scheduled, deciding if chemotherapy will actually help you live longer or end up harming you, if radiation or surgery might be the answer among many other options. One thing you always walk away with is the need to make a big decision and never knowing if it’s the right decision, because there really aren’t any guarantees.  But it’s important to consider if whatever you decide is going to help you live longer with a reasonable quality of life or if it’s going to end up causing more harm than good to the point where you can’t enjoy the rest of your time.

Advanced cancer that is terminal and chemotherapy have been a common mix, but whether it actually improves quality of life for someone with a terminal disease is in question.  NPR recently ran a story, “What If Chemo Doesn’t Help You Live Longer Or Better?” where they discussed situations where chemotherapy was given to people with solid tumors who have been diagnosed with terminal disease and aren’t expected to live more than six months.

“What If Chemo Doesn’t Help You Live Longer or Better?” by NPR


There was a study published in the medical journal JAMA Oncology which shows a higher quality of life for those near death who are not on chemotherapy.

Excerpt from the NPR story…

Prigerson and her colleagues decided to see whether chemotherapy in this circumstance actually does improve a patient’s quality of life. So they talked to the patients’ caregivers and asked them how the patient fared during the final week of life.

“They assessed things like their mood, how anxious they were, their physical symptoms and their overall quality of life,” Prigerson says. Her study found that chemotherapy often harmed these patients at the end, reducing their quality of life. And it didn’t extend their lives, either.

What are your thoughts on chemotherapy administered to advanced cancer patients that are terminal? Should it be administered even with the risk of a lower quality of life? Share in the comments below. 

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