What makes cancer terminal?

What is the point when cancer changes from non-terminal to terminal. Do doctors just keep zapping the cancer with radiation therapy and chemo until they either pass away or survive or is there an actual point where its too late and theres no point for any treatment? 

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  • 1 month ago
    Favourite answer

    Well for starters "cancer" is an umbrella term that contains all the types of cancer that exist. 

    Every type of cancer is different and requires different treatment.

    Now that being understood, something that all types of cancer have in common is that they become terminal when there's no response from treatment, meaning, the cancer keeps spreading despite treatment. I've had patients w stage 4 cancer (advanced stage) that stay alive and in treatment for years, but at some point, their cancer becomes resistant to treatment and spreads to a point where it's not compatible w life. THAT means is terminal.

  • Pippin
    Lv 7
    4 weeks ago

    This isn't really a straightforward question OR answer.

    Stage 4 solid tumors are normally considered to be terminal, in that they can't be cured, or put into remission. But some stage 4 cancer patients can survive for many years, having treatments as needed.

    But too, it's not about the 'doctor zapping the cancer.' At whatever stage the patient is in, it's the PATIENT'S choice whether to continue treatment, or to stop.

    Sometimes chemo and/or radiation can improve quality of life and/or give the patient more time. In other situations, it just increases pain and suffering, or can shorten life.  (In which case the doctor would be VERY unlikely to do it.)

    Two Friends I had:

    1. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Determined to fight it to the end. Had a horrible time with chemo, but stuck with it. Finally, after about 14 months she was so sick (both from the cancer and from being worn out from the chemo) that the doctor recommended hospice. She (and her husband) wanted to keep trying (they were hoping to be admitted to a clinical trial, but she was too sick). The doctor grudgingly agreed to radiation, but she was in too much pain to lie still for the treatments. So her husband agreed to hospice, they went home -- and she died a few days later.

    2. Lymphoma. Very treatable, with long-term survivals and cures the norm. But she didn't respond to the standard chemo, or to any of several other cocktails. (The tumors would shink briefly, then grow again.) She couldn't do a stem cell transplant because the cancer was chemo-resistant. She was going to do Car-T therapy, but that fell through. By that time she was very sick, with cancer all through her abdomen. (She looked about 6 months pregnant....) Technically more chemo might have gained her time, but she had had enough.  She went home, and died 2 weeks later. (10 months after diagnosis.)

  • 1 month ago

    Terminal-means-that-the-cancer-has-reached-the-point-where-any-further-treatment-is-pointless.-At-that-point-the-focus-becomes-on-keeping-the-patient-comfortable-and-free-of-pain.

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    The disease in cases that treatment will not work. 

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  • 1 month ago

    If it spreads from it's initial site, then they usually can't stop it.  Such as brain cancer, if they do an MRI and find it in the neck, then it's probably not curable. BUT treatments are better, diagnosis is earlier and earlier.  

  • 1 month ago

    wrong treatments make a cancer terminal. if you only "treat" the symptoms (with poison), you will make the reason worse.

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