What happens if I don't have chemotherapy?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 11, 2016
Susana1294 asked...

i recently had a colonoscopy and endoscopy. they found polyps and removed all of them, however 2 were sent to labs. and i was told 1 was malignant. My GI doctor said they removed everything but that i will need to do chemotherapy. i have no insurance and do not qualify for state assistance. what happens if i dont do the chemotherapy. i am so scared and have not told anyone but my sister, not even my 19 yr old son. i dont know where to go or who to talk to.

Expert Answers

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

It sounds as though you are writing about a situation of the future, possibly distant, possibly not. Unfortunately there is no way to accurately predict what will happen. Not having chemotherapy is always an option that should be considered. The chemotherapy sounds like it may be "adjuvent" chemotherapy that is used to try to prevent the cancer from coming back. Just because treatments are possible, does not mean that they should be done. Having cancer is extremely scary and it is impossible not to think about death and its effects on the ones you love. You should not keep it to yourself. People will see that you are worried about something and will make up their own stories if you do not explain it to them. Also in the long run you do not protect them because then they will find out and are likely not to understand why you did not trust them. Yes they will suffer but it is better to tell them. I have never found anyone who was upset that they were told. I have met many patients' family members who were upset that they were not told. Whatever you decide to do, you will need support from close friends and the ones you love. Please trust them. If the financial problem is the main reason, ask for help from a social worker as often they can help by finding ways to pay for treatment. If it is not prohibitively expensive, I recommend talking with an oncologist to see what the possible treatments are. Many these days are not as harmful as older ones. You can at least ask your GI doctor what he/she knows about this situation and how to proceed. If you are sure you do not want to be treated for financial reasons or otherwise, I would suggest talking with a hospice to find out when you would be eligible to have them help with your symptoms when they do occur. It is possible that it may be a long time before that happens.