My Grandfather Has Cancer And Is Refusing Chemotherapy

My grandfather has metastatic cancer and is refusing chemotherapy.  How can I persuade him take the treatment?

The real question should be:  “is chemotherapy even appropriate for him?”  

Cancers progress through four stages:  metastatic refers to the final stage (4), meaning it has spread beyond the original tumor.  Whereas stage 1 is often curable (using surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy), stages 2 and 3 are less so; and stage 4 usually results in death.

An article in the Times-Daily of June 27, 2017 described how patients with stage 4 keep receiving false hope from doctors and the cancer treatment industry, hoping for a cure, when in reality, chemotherapy in stage 4 only creates increased suffering—with a worse quality of death and no improvement in quality of life.

Everyone hopes there will be miraculous cure for the dreaded big ‘C’.  But, as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015, despite all the research and promotions, all we’ve done over the last 20 years is make patients feel worse and they don’t live any longer.  The editors stated, “It is disturbing that this trial demonstrated no benefits of chemotherapy… and… that oncologists still recommend and use systemic therapy so close to patient death.”  

The evidence is accumulating:  once you have metastatic cancer, your chance of living longer and better by taking chemotherapy is poor indeed.   When the goal is quality of life, not quantity, your grandfather’s decision is the best one: essentially, eat and drink what you like, enjoy your family, and avoid all the side-effects from treatment. 

If someone tries to make him feel guilty for refusing chemotherapy, remember that ‘false hope’ is worse than ‘no hope’. A comfort-focused approach improves  not only our quality of living, but also of dying: it’s what our hospice does well!