Ask Dr. Giles: My niece doesn’t know the extent of her cancer, should we tell her

A Concerned Aunt asks:


My 29 year old niece was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma about 2 weeks now. The doctors here in PH told us it already on stage 4 and surgical procedure is no longer an option. My niece is all in high spirits though we see her health deteriorate day by day. My family is pushing for chemotherapy since this is also what my niece wants. All is hoping this is the cure and will help her cope. I talked to the surgeon and we were told this is not something they will recommend since it will only make things worse for my niece. However, my niece did not know the extent of her cancer. Only that she has it and she is now fighting to get better.

Should we tell my niece about the real prognosis so she can weigh things with everything laid on her or should we just keep it to ourselves on what the real score is and keep her hoping until she gives up and say she cant take it anymore.

The family believes we should give my niece a fighting chance.

It sounds like your family is struggling with how to best help your niece in her fight against cancer. You want to keep her motivated rather than to become discouraged at the long odds for survival. It is important, however, to remember that your niece is at the very center of this fight and she is impacted by it more than any other person. As a result, it seems important to supply her with any and all information pertaining to her fight. It may be frightening or overwhelming to her to know the seriousness of her condition, but without that knowledge how can she properly make decisions? When I refer to decisions, I’m not only talking about decisions regarding treatment, but also decisions regarding her plans for the future, how she is going to manage her relationships with others, and how she is going to spend her time.

Give her all the information. She deserves to know what she’s up against.