Palliative chemotherapy

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Hello My husband has been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer. He has a large tumour in his bowel and significant mets all through his liver. There is no sign on the scans of anything in his lungs. It cannot be operated on although he has been given a colostomy because they were concerned about his bowel blocking. He is about to start 12 sessions of Folfox which was described by the consultant on a medical declaration form (for holiday insurance company) as “palliative chemotherapy”. Do we need to get our heads around him never being cancer free and this chemo is just to extend his life? We have heard stories of people with stage 4 bowel cancer being told they are cancer free and their stoma being reversed. Is that possible? What does he mean by the palliative chemotherapy reference? Thanks

  • Hi Jd37.

    Thanks for getting in touch and welcome to our online community. My name is Sherrye and I’m one of the Cancer Information Nurse Specialists on the Macmillan Support Line.

    I can see you’ve joined a couple of the forum groups in our online community, I do hope you are finding them helpful and supportive.

    I’m sorry to learn that your husband has stage 4 bowel cancer and significant mets through his liver. I understand he about to start 12 sessions of palliative Folfox chemotherapy.

    The aim of palliative treatment is to relieve symptoms and improve a person’s quality of life by attempting to shrink or keep the tumour under control for as long as possible. When being offered palliative treatment this does mean a cancer is not curable, this can be very hard to hear and different emotions can be experienced, there is not right or wrong way to feel.

    It’s important to remember that everyone’s situation is different and individuals may respond differently to palliative treatments, your husband’s team will be monitoring this has he has his 12 sessions. It’s not unheard of for a person’s cancer stage to change if they respond well, but it is rare and very difficult to predict.

    At Macmillan Cancer Support we are separate from the NHS so have no access to their systems or anyone’s medical records so I’m not able to judge how your husband may respond while having palliative chemotherapy. His consultant and clinical nurse specialist (CNS) are best placed to discuss this with.

    I hope this information helps. Please feel free to get back in touch if you want more information or support.

    Best wishes,

    Sherrye H,

    Cancer Information Nurse Specialist 

    You can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm), send us an email or contact us through webchat.

    Ref SH/AW