Confronting Dark End of Life Decisions of Late-Stage Cancer Patients!

Unlike exhaustation of avaiblable treatment at early stage, at the final stage, cancer patients often suffer from other issues like extremely emotionally sensitive decisions about making preparation for  their remaining time while attempting to maintain a high quality of life. This article shows some of many issues which patients and their families bear during this extremely hard time.


Planning For Remaining Care

When available treatments are no longer able to slow or halt the growth of cancer, the approach for advanced stage cancer focuses on keeping patients comfortable and limiting pain as much as possible. It is important to understand that patients will continue to be cared for and that everything medically and socially possible will be done to ensure that the patient’s remaining days will be peaceful and dignified.


Palliative Care

Palliative care provides physical, emotional, social and spiritual support and counseling for people with cancer and their families. The focus of care is on relieving symptoms and improving quality of life. Most specialized acute hospital systems provide patients with an interdisciplinary team of palliative care doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists and psychologists to address the needs of patients. Certain types of treatments include administering of pain medication, sedatives, spiritual counseling and psychological consultations. Palliative care remains an integral component in the continuum of care.


Dr. Diane Maier, Director at the Center to Advance Palliative Care from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, describes Palliative Care and Hospice Care as “medical care focused on relief of suffering” at any stage in the disease.


Hospice Care

Hospice care focuses on care to patients expected to live six months or less. Referrals require that cancer patients and their doctors have an open, honest conversation about remaining treatment options and prognosis. The intent of hospice care is similar to palliative care, focusing on relieving pain and discomfort and helping the person and family cope with the emotional effects of death and dying. Most hospice care takes place in the person’s home, but hospice care is also available in hospitals and private hospice and nursing home facilities. Because of the availability of hospice programs and other home care services, people with end-stage cancer can often choose where they would like to spend their last days, whether at home, in a hospital, or in a private facility. The cost, availability of caregivers, and community resources are factors to consider when selecting hospice services.


Planning For Support

End-of-life cancer patients and caregivers will also most likely need physical, mental and emotional support from family, friends, advocacy organizations, and societies. The American Cancer Society and Canadian Cancer Society are active supporters to patients and caregivers.


Recently, the Canadian Cancer Society has focused on providing better support to end-of-life cancer patients and caregivers through several programs that include: Peer Support (one-to-one support, telephone support, group support), Transportation Assistance (volunteer driver program, other transportation resources), and Financial Assistance programs.


The role of the caregiver becomes increasingly important in late-stage cancer patients and an important support strategy for them might include: compassionate care benefits, tax benefits, peer support, emotional and social support.


Planning For Death

When planning for the worst, cancer patients often work with a lawyer in creating a personal Will to decide how to manage their personal items (e.g. money, property, investments, children) with their family and friends. Additionally, they plan details around their death and funeral services: where to die, type of funeral-casket, cremation or burial, burial plots, flowers, donations, tree-planting ceremony, graveside ceremony, funeral service, music, poetry, readings and speakers.


We realize that advanced cancer patients, family members and caregivers face extremely difficult decisions and encourage you to share with us any tips or suggestions you might have to help others benefit from your experience.