Thursday, Aug 29, 2013
The Straits Times
By Andy Ho
SINGAPORE – Many patients with terminal cancer are not aware that the palliative chemotherapy or radiotherapy they are getting doesn’t cure.
Palliative therapy is meant to shrink the size of tumours that cause pain, cough or other physical symptoms of cancer and also slow the progress of cancer enough to extend life somewhat. But it does not cure.
Many patients consent to such treatment in the mistaken belief that it can cure them, in part because of mixed signals from doctors. Doctors should be gentle but firm in getting patients to understand that palliative therapy may prolong life but won’t cure the cancer. Worse yet, it can have very bad side effects.
Only with such honesty can patients properly consent to or refuse such therapy. It is also kind because the truth will enable them to plan for the end better too.