Conversations on Cancer Chemotherapy Cessation in Patients With Advanced Cancer: Qualitative Findings From a Multi-Institutional Study

Jeremiah Stout, Ashok Kumbamu, Jon Tilburt, Cara Fernandez, Gail Geller, Barbara Koenig, Heinz Josep Lenz, Aminah Jatoi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: As many as 20% of oncology patients receive chemotherapy in the last 14 days of their lives. This study characterized conversations between patients and cancer clinicians on chemotherapy cessation in the setting of advanced cancer. Methods: This 3-site study captured real-time, audio-recorded interviews between oncology clinicians and patients with cancer during actual clinic visits. Audio-recordings were reviewed for discussion of chemotherapy cessation and were analyzed qualitatively. Results: Among 525 recordings, 14 focused on stopping chemotherapy; 14 patients participated with 11 different clinicians. Two types of nonmutually exclusive conversation elements emerged: direct and specific elements that described an absence of effective therapeutic options and indirect elements. An example of a direct element is as follows: “…You know this is…always really tough…But I—I think that you may need more help…I think we’re close to stopping chemotherapy…And hospice is really helpful to have in place…” In contrast, the second conversation element was more convoluted: “…transplant is not an option and surgery is not an option…The options…are taking a pill…It doesn’t shrink the tumor…It may help you live a little longer. But I’m worried if [you] had the pill, it’s still a therapy and it still has side effects. I [am] worried if I give it to you now, that you’re so weak, it will make you worse.” No relationship seemed apparent between conversation elements and chemotherapy cessation. Conclusions: Conversations on chemotherapy cessation are complex; multiple factors appear to drive the decision to stop.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-179
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • cessation
  • chemotherapy
  • conversations
  • end of life
  • qualitative
  • stopping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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