If the results published in the Journal of the American Medical (JAMA) Oncology are true, treating terminal cancer patients with chemotherapy might do them more harm than good. The study monitored the cases of 312 patients diagnosed progressive cancer until they passed away.
The participants were mostly men with an average age of 59, and around half of them were on chemotherapy. This kind of treatment is based on administering the patients some potent chemicals that should be targeting the cancer cells and the tumors, but also destroy some of the good cells in the organism.
Conducted by researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College, the study discovered that comparing the benefits and the side effects of chemotherapy in terminally ill cancer patients actually showed that the treatment reduces the quality of life. Patients became unable to walk and full-time care was required for their basic needs.
It turned out, according to the data collected from the caregivers, that the final week of life for the chemotherapy patients was the worst, as they suffered the most mental and physical distress.
Mobility did not improve with chemotherapy sessions; on the contrary, some of the patients who could take care of themselves found that their quality of life was diminished after undergoing chemotherapy.
Leading study author Holly Prigerson of the Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital explains that not only did chemotherapy offer no benefit to terminal patients, but it also appeared to harm the good performance status some of the patients had.
Many people who haven’t gone through the tragedy of a cancer believe that palliative chemotherapy always lengthens the lifespan of patients, but this study highlighted how that is so often not true.
Even patients going in for treatment put all their hopes in it, overestimating the odds of chemotherapy actually working. Although he was not involved in the study, Prof Timothy Quill, lecturing on psychiatry and medical humanities at the University of Rochester Medical Centre, thinks that not only does chemotherapy seldom prolong one’s life, but it also does not improve the quality of life.
The study also urged the revision of the guidelines that recommend chemotherapy for patients with terminal cancer, as to recognize the potential harm this treatment has in patients suffering from progressive metastatic disease.
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