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Incurable Cancer

By

Robert Peter Gale

, MD, PhD, Imperial College London

Last full review/revision Sep 2020| Content last modified Sep 2020
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Even in cases of incurable cancer, palliative or experimental therapies may improve quality and extent of life (see also Overview of Cancer Therapy). However, physicians should resist giving ineffective therapies. A better choice is to discuss the likely results of such treatments and to set realistic goals with the patient. A patient’s decision to forgo cancer treatment should be respected. Another alternative is the clinical trial, the risks and benefits of which deserve discussion.

Regardless of prognosis, quality of life in cancer patients may improve with nutritional support, effective pain management, other symptomatic palliative care, and psychiatric and social support of the patient and family. Above all, patients must know that the clinical team will remain involved and accessible for support, regardless of the prognosis. Hospice or other related end-of-life care programs are important parts of cancer treatment. For more information pertaining to patients with incurable disease, see The Dying Patient.

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