Cancer is frightening, not just for those diagnosed with the disease but also for their families and loved ones. To witness their pain right up to the end and to see how they suffer the side effects of treatments like chemotherapy, is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
I’ve lost two family members to cancer and to hear that someone you care about has terminal cancer is one of the most difficult things to process.
In a new study, researchers surveyed patients with advanced cancers that had spread to other parts of their body. Doctors considered each of these patients terminal.
Yet, nearly three out of four patients believed their chemotherapy regimen would probably cure them.
So let’s be clear on this: Terminal cancer means there’s no turn around in most cases.
This is why a recent report on the WebMD website about this study really upset me, because it’s downright misleading.
How much comfort from chemo
The WebMD article states that in terminal cancer patients, “chemotherapy can alleviate pain and extend life by weeks or even months.”
Chemo can alleviate pain? Seriously. That’s a stretch!
In some cases, chemotherapy shrinks tumours. That might relieve pain. But there’s another, more common source of cancer pain relief. Painkillers.
World renowned alternative health specialist, Dr. Alan Spreen, says that virtually all advanced cancers cause pain. That’s why doctors almost always give powerful painkillers in these cases.
Meanwhile, chemotherapy invariably degrades quality of life. Pain usually plays a large role in that process.
WebMD‘s second claim is also off the mark. Yes, a few terminal cancer patients may get some extra weeks or months added to their lives, but the opposite is also true in many cases.
Previously, I told you about a review of 600 cases in which cancer patients died within 30 days of receiving chemotherapy. In 40 per cent of these cases, patients experienced “significant poisoning.” Treatment actually accelerated or caused about one-in-four deaths.
Finally, some chemotherapy drugs won’t work at all.
A few years ago, an oncologist examined the medical records of almost 8,000 cancer patients. In cases where patients received chemotherapy in the final six months of their lives, ONE-THIRD had cancers that were unresponsive to chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is enormously complicated. Every cancer is different. Every chemotherapy regimen is different. There are many ways in which misconceptions can creep in.
So if you ever have to discuss chemotherapy options with a doctor, go on high alert. That might be difficult if you’re sick. So bring someone with you. Record the conversation if you can. Ask as many questions as you can think of. Take notes and don’t be afraid to call your doctor with follow up questions.
If a friend or family member gets a cancer diagnosis, offer to go along for the doctor’s meeting. In fact, insist that they don’t go alone.
The more you know, the better you’ll be able to protect yourself (or a loved one) from misconceptions and from being led down the garden path with empty promises.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
“Many With Incurable Cancer Think They Can Be Cured” Denise Mann, WebMD, 10/24/12, webmd.com
“Patients’ Expectations about Effects of Chemotherapy for Advanced Cancer” New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 367, No. 17, 10/25/12, nejm.org
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