Palliative Chemo vs Palliative Care

I was told this week that my liver and colon cancer were inoperable and that there were now just two options left to me.

A) Palliative Chemo

B) Palliative Care

I have opted - for the moment - for palliative chemo but I am having second thoughts. My initial 6 rounds of regular chemo left me feeling pretty bad physically and psychologically and reading the side effects of the palliative chemo drugs and the paraphanalia involved (permanent arm needle fix plus pump) I am not at all sure that I need to put myself through that misery just for what may only be a few extra weeks of life. In addition my life would become a succession of hospital visits, scans, discussions etc etc with no discernible improvement in quality of life while at the same time suffering some of the truly ghastly side effects of palliative chemo.

I'm looking to achieve some quality of life from my remaining time with care and dignity being my top priorities irrespective of the time frame. Control of pain and the feeling that someone in the community nursing is looking after ME - I'm told it's very good in my area - could well be an overriding factor in my final deliberation.

I know we are entering "how long is a piece of string" territory but was is the typical extra life span of someone who takes palliative chemo?

  • Hi Tanner,


    Thank you for getting in touch with us and welcome to the online community.  My name is Adrienne and I’m one of the Cancer Information Nurses at Macmillan.


    I completely understand how important quality of life is to you as well as ensuring your dignity is maintained. 


    As you mentioned, it is impossible to know what the prognosis would be with palliative chemotherapy.  It is very much dependent on how well you are, how large the tumours are and how well the cancer responds to the treatment.  Some people can have a very good response and can live for a number of years, but it is a very individual thing in how well the chemotherapy works for you. 


    If you decide to go ahead with the palliative chemotherapy, it might be useful to explain your worries and concerns to the oncologist.  Ask that they refer you to the community palliative care team.  They can support you both emotionally and with any symptoms or side-effects you may experience from the chemotherapy. 


    The aim of the palliative chemotherapy will be to not only prolong your life but also to help you remain active for as long as possible.  I would suggest that you discuss your worries and concerns with your specialist nurse or doctor before making a finial decision.  You can also stop treatment at any time if you feel the side-effects are affecting your quality of life too much but it’s definitely worth speaking to your doctor again, so you are making an informed decision that’s right for you.


    If you decide against treatment, the palliative care team will support you by managing any symptoms you may have as well as providing emotional support to you and your loved ones.  They work alongside the GP and district nurses to ensure you are well supported and receive the best care possible.


    I really do wish you all the best and hope this information was helpful.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of any further help.  You can also email us back and we aim to reply within two working days.


    Take care and best wishes,


    Adrienne (Macmillan Cancer Information Nurse Specialist)

    Ref/ LB