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Colorectal Cancer: Nearing End Of LIfe

Speak With Your Doctor About Your Wishes

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Do not expect your doctor to bring up the end of life subject. Not many do. 

It is never too late or too early to discuss with your doctor what your feelings are about end of life, the treatments you do and do not want, and his or her participation in the process. Also, if you haven't already, tell the doctor what you do or do not want to know about the progress of your disease and his or her estimate of how long you are likely to live (prognosis).

It will make it easier for family and friends if you let the doctor know that you understand that the drugs that may provide relief from unyielding suffering before death may also hasten death - but that you want to live with a little pain as possible.

Bring up your concerns about a fear of loss of dignity if you have them.

It is okay to ask your doctor for assurance that he or she will not abandon you if a point comes when there is no longer anything he or she can do about stopping the disease's progression. Doctors have been known to abandon patients in this situation. It may help to let your doctors know that just their continuing presence and concern will help you remain hopeful, even if there is nothing more the doctor can do medically. 

Don't be surprised if your doctor is uncomfortable with the discussion. After all, his or her training is to keep people alive. It's only recently that medical schools are starting to teach about end of life. 

If your doctor disagrees with what you want, ask whether the doctor will nevertheless carry out your wishes. If the doctor is not willing to do what you wish, consider switching doctors. Yes - even now it's not too late to change doctors to one who is a better fit with your needs. 

NOTE: Experience indicates that some people, particularly people who are agreeable by nature, do not admit to their doctor that they are in pain. If you want to suffer, so be it. Otherwise, let the doctor know about the pain you are experiencing so he or she can suggest alternatives to stop or at least lower the amount of pain. There are even doctors who specialize in pain management. 

Survivorship A to Z has created a Symptoms Diary which helps you keep track of pain (and other symptoms). You can print it and show it to your doctor instead of trying to remember what happened since your last visit. See "To Learn More."

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