Benefit of End-Stage Chemotherapy Is Questioned

JULY 23, 2015
Courtesy of the New York Times: http://nyti.ms/1LxAnA8
Ritchie Johnson, whose son, Christopher, underwent late-stage chemotherapy for a rare kidney cancer. A new study says that patients who undergo such treatments may see their quality of life worsen in their final weeks. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
Ritchie Johnson, whose son, Christopher, underwent late-stage chemotherapy for a rare kidney cancer. A new study says that patients who undergo such treatments may see their quality of life worsen in their final weeks. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

By Pam Belluck
It is an excruciating question for cancer patients with a prognosis of only months to live. Should they try another round of chemotherapy?

Guidelines for oncologists say no for very sick patients, those who are often bedridden and cannot handle most daily needs themselves. But for patients who are more self-sufficient,chemotherapy is considered a reasonable option. Despite its well-known toxic side effects, many end-stage patients and their doctors have considered chemotherapy worth trying, believing it may ease discomfort or buy time.

Now, a study suggests that even those stronger patients may not benefit from end-of-life chemotherapy — and that for many, their quality of life may worsen in their final weeks compared with patients who forgo last-ditch treatment.

“It worsened quality of life for those that are relatively healthy, and those are the ones that the guidelines support treating,” said Dr. Charles D. Blanke, a medical oncologist at Oregon Health and Science University, who was not involved in the study. “Chemotherapy is supposed to either help people live better or help them live longer, and this study showed that chemotherapy did neither.”  Continue Reading “Another round of chemo?”