Deciding when to stop cancer treatment is an agonizing decision and one every patient makes in their own way. While the first response to an illness like cancer is to fight it with everything available, at some point the better choice is comfort care as opposed to aggressive treatments that have painful side effects and impact quality of life. When this switch from the fighting for your life to acknowledging the end of your life happens is different in every patient, but it's a defining moment in the course of the illness.
At a recent meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago research was presented that showed three out of four cancer patients are still getting aggressive, and likely futile, cancer treatments in the last 30 days of their lives. While this might seem like just what anyone would do to stay alive, most doctors feel that patients and their families would be better off if care switched to comfort measures instead of invasive treatments. Having treatment that alleviates pain and can give a patients time to spend away from hospitals and treatments and with their families is the model most oncologists would like to see. Convincing patients of this might take some time though.