Is dying from cancer treatment worse than dying from cancer?

Pandora asked...

Is it better to die from treatment of cancer or just die from the disease? Is prolonging the death cycle really better in quality?

Expert Answer

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

As a general question, this is very hard to answer since different cancers behave differently. Cancer treatment can prolong life in many cases for some period of time but the question is at what cost to quality of life? For some people, the cost is well worth the benefits. For others, the benefits can be very small after treatment is no longer capable of supplying desired success. In many cases there comes a time when it is reasonable to refuse cancer treatment and different people can disagree on when that is. Each individual must decide, often with the help of family and friends, when, if the disease appears to be winning, is the right time to stop. Every individual has the right to choose that time if desired when the suffering due to treatment is likely to be worse than focusing on comfort and quality of life, no matter the final outcome.