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What does 'terminal' mean?

No. of entries: 33 | Posted on 30 Jul 2011 1:52 PM

What does 'terminal' mean?

  • Hi,

    Stupid question, but does 'incurable' mean 'terminal'?  We have no prognosis, but we know it is incurable and inoperable.  What does that really mean?

    Thanks xx

  • It's difficult to say without knowing what the diagnosis is.  I mean someone can suffer from incurable hic-cups, but it won't result in their death.

    Yes, cancer is far more serious and incurable may well mean terminal.

  • From your biography, it looks as though cancer has spread throughout your father's body.  You need to have this discussion with his oncologist.  But, the nature of cancer being what it is, it's going to be difficult to estimate any time scales.

    I wish you all the best in your fight and hope for peace and comfort.

  • Thanks Pete.  The oncologist did say 'within weeks without treatment' but I guess that is the case with most cancers left untreated.

    Thank you x

  • Usually the word Terminal is used to describe someone in their final year.

  • Hi Mollyb

    The definition depends on who gives it -The DHS defines it as somone in the last 6 months of life and removes some of the rules for claiming Disability Living Allowance.

    Mine is inoperable Prostate Cancer, but been here for 3 years since diagnosis, and reckon a another good few yet. You can have treatment, just no cure. usually due to spread to surrounding areas. Not sure it helps  - but inoperable, does not mean untreatable and also does not mean terminal.

    Not sure if this helps or confuses even more - you need to speak to the consultant involved and ask for it in plain english maybe.

    Hugs John xx

  • Hi Molly,Like sadman I was led to believe it means a year or less,I  dont want to face the day they say it about my Pete.Just wish they would find that cure in time,love to everyone Chris.xx

  • Inoperable in the case of Cancer, I guess would mean that eventually the condition would be terminal.   When that happens depends on the individual and the treatment.  In December 2010, I was told that I had Inoperable Lung Cancer and secondary Spinal Bone Cancer.  There never was a prognosis, but I got the impression that Life would be very short.  I received six sessions of Chemo in 21 day periods, the result from the latest scan shows a massive reduction in the Lung tumour size and a major improvement in the spine area, alleviating for now the need for radiotherapy.  I was never too keen on the hugely optimistic view that so many people try to tell us at the beginning of the diagnosis, we are all different, healthwise and have to take each day as it comes.  Most importantly it is the patient who has to take control, particularly regarding the suitability of some of the drugs prescribed.  Every problem that arises becomes a new challenge to solve, for example finding food and drink that does not taste so bad that it makes you sick.  I suppose the key to coping with that 'terminal' suggestion or label, is to accept it as possibly a long term prognosis. But there are more important issues to deal with in the present, like making the very best of our time, spending time with those we love, having holiday breaks or sightseeing or just writing a blog in the hope that it cheers someone up a bit !!!

  • good morning all,,  i was told last week that my husbands cancer is terminal,, this is because not only is it in operable but it has spread very quickly over the last few months, we've been told that the main thing now is to keep him as comfortable and pain free in the coming weeks,,  he was diagnosed with gullet/stomach cancer last sept, was told it was a small tumour and after chemo they would operate to remove either all or part of stomach and gullet, had a lap stage op in october, tumour a lot larger than expected, 3 months of chemo, scan showed shrinkage of tumour, operation in feb of this year, it was an open and shut case, the cancer had spread to the peritineum, more chemo started 2 weeks later on a weekly basis, suffered all the way through with every side effect possible and going downhill on a daily basis, last chemo om july 1st, scan a week later which has shown that the cancer has now spread to his liver and lymph nodes, so now prognosis not too good, he's now 5 stone lighter, can barely walk, can't eat and is suffering all the time,  we haven't had any good days these past few months only bad days and and even more bad days, we've tried to remain positive and hopeful  but when you can see someone fading away daily its very hard,, we've a lovely large family that are a great comfort, the support and kindness i've had on these sites has been amazing, it does help to know that other people know what we have been going through, its so sad that daily more and more people find themselves on here battling this awful disease, even though we're going through all this i'm constantly amazed at how strong people can be and how they cope, i suppose we all find  the strength from somewhere within us to carry on, there isn't really any alterative but to carry on , my heart goes out to everybody who finds themselves in this posistion, i can only wish you well and strength and peace of mind,, sorry for rambling on a bit but found myself very low and upset this morning and needed to offload myself a bit and i do feel a bit better for it, i only wish i had something cheerful to say !!!  thanks for listening, may you all have a peaceful day,    linda  xx 

  • Hi all,

    My husband was given an "incurable" diagnosis in April 2010.  With chemo he did quite well but is now going down hill again.  He is currently having palliative radiotherapy.  The "T" word hasn't been used yet but we have been contacted by our hospice team.


    My heart goes out to you and all I can do is offer the hope of strength to get you through.  We do understand and we do care.


    Ann xx

  • Hi Ann,, thank you xx, kind words as always from you lovely people, it goes without saying i wish the same to you too, its not easy is it?  i never thought i'd be going through all this. we've got our macmillan nurse coming round this week so hopefully she 'll have some advice too, the oncologist suggested a syringe driver when i spoke to her last week but hubby refused! said he'd see how he got on with his oromorph to start with, but i have to nag him to take his medication, he leaves it until its too late then wonders why it takes longer to kick in, i must add that stubborness is one of his less enduring traits!!!  or is it just a "man" thing?? i get fed up with the sound of my own voice at times so i'm sure he does too!!  i did ask him once  and he said its too be expected as i was probably a witch in a previous life, charming eh? : )     linda xx

  • I'm similar to John O'C - incurable prostate cancer with spread to lymph nodes so inoperable as well.

    My onco never used the word 'terminal' but when pushed gave me a prognosis of about 5 years or so. OK this is the standard answer they all give with such a cancers.

    According to the Oxford Consise dictionary the word in this context means:
    "disease predicted to lead to death". So that fits me.

    However - I don't think we should let words mean too much to us - plenty of things could happen to increase the prognosis such as new drugs or treatments.


  • hi mal,, i agree, words don't always mean that much, i think it all becomes more evident by the physical symptoms that people display as the disease progresses, like you say there are new developments all the time and hopefully this can help a lot of people stay around a lot longer, good luck, linda xx 

  • Just wanted to add that my mum's treatment was stopped for bowel cancer with mets in lungs, lymph nodes (later further liver mets), she then went on to live for 20 months after her terminal diagnosis. Everybody is different, each cancer is different. Lots of love and hugs to those who need it, just live each day as if it is their last, hug them and tell them you love them at every opportunity. x

  • Hi All,

    just wanted to add that my "incurable" cancer  (bowel +liver and lung mets)was diagnosed in nov 2008 so technically I was terminally ill then.  Now I have spread to the pelvis and adrenal gland. The T word has never been used but end of life care has been discussed and I am in no doubt that this disease will see me off in time.How much time, we never know but then do we ever? I think the advice to live as well as we can, to love each other is sound advice for life wherever we are in it.

    Love and strength to all who need it.

    Jen XX