Updated 15 March 2017

When to give up cancer treatment – a difficult decision

Stopping aggressive cancer treatment may make a patient's last days a time for focusing on family.


When to stop aggressive treatment is among the most wrenching decisions in cancer care. Medical guidelines say dying cancer patients shouldn't get harsh treatment, but new research suggests it happens almost all of the time.

During their last month alive, three out four cancer patients younger than 65 in the study got too-aggressive treatment. Only a handful got comfort-based hospice care instead.

The study was presented in Chicago at an American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting.

Experts say dying patients are sometimes in denial and don't understand the limitations of medical treatment. And sometimes doctors think stopping cancer treatment means giving up hope.

But some people say stopping treatment made their loved ones' last days a time when they could focus on family — not on machines and medicines.

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