Edwin de Vaal, general practitioner in Nijmegen, answers a frequently asked or striking question from his practice every week.

This week it is: should I keep fighting cancer?

And how do I do that?

How do I fight cancer?

"I regularly get that question in my doctor's office. Because people always talk about 'fighting' against cancer, patients have the idea that they should continue to fight. Even if they have already had all kinds of treatments. I think 'fighting' is a challenge. annoying word when it comes to cancer. "

Why is 'fight' not a good word?

"Because this creates the image that cancer is the enemy and that you can defeat it if you try hard enough for it. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. There is very little you can actively do yourself to fight the disease. "

"I find talking about 'fighting' disturbing. Especially for people who are not ultimately lucky enough to be cured of cancer. Just because they 'lost' does not mean that they have been weak or not fought hard enough. You do not 'lose'. Cancer. Whether you are cured or not has to do with pure luck. You cannot blame yourself if your treatment does not work. "

But there are all kinds of treatments that you can undergo, right?

Isn't that a form of fighting?

"That is true. But whether those treatments have an effect depends on all kinds of factors that you cannot influence yourself: how quickly you are there, which therapy is available, whether the tumor remains stable, or whether there are metastases."

"The only thing you can actively do is undergo the treatments and keep them going. But some people don't want another tough course with many side effects after two or three chemotherapy sessions. I think that's a really brave choice."

“Your life is turned upside down with cancer.

While you constantly have to make choices.

Staying close to yourself is difficult, but very important. ”

Brave?

Isn't it a form of giving up?

It is often very difficult to make such a decision. It is difficult enough to dare to think about it in any case. But what makes it even more difficult is that you often have to compete with your environment. Doctors try anyway. to heal people and also think that it is expected of them. Your family does not want to just let you go and will push for extra treatments. "

"If a patient then decides not to sacrifice so much quality of life for maybe a few extra months, I think that's really brave."

Can you discuss these things with your doctor?

"You can always go to your doctor if you want to discuss these kinds of personal and difficult matters. That is of course also possible with your oncologist or the nurse. There are also special support groups and treatment centers where you can go for psychological support in cancer. of IPSO. Your life is turned upside down with cancer. While you constantly have to make choices. Staying close to yourself is difficult, but very important. "