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I think this is a great way to think about it. People who try everything to extend their life do not die in vain. Over ten people in my family in the last ten years have been diagnosed with cancer and so far we've only lost one. The person who didn't make it was the youngest of all the victims, but his tumour was also somewhere the doctor's didn't see that often - the bile duct near the liver.

The number of operations and suffering he had to endure still lives with me to this day and I could see why any doctor would choose not to go through this if they had to see such futile attempts at extending life end the same way. They flew in special equipment from the USA that was deemed highly experimental and would cut him open and try it out, only to have to cut him back open a few weeks later to remove what they put in. They tried surgery after surgery in the hopes something would be successful. They did not save his life but I like to think they at least learnt something about a cancer they simply don't see that often, that gave the next person a better shot. When they finally told him there was nothing more they could do, he asked them to stop all further treatment and to let him die on his terms.

The outlook for patients with breast, stomach, lung, testicular, skin or any other form of "common" cancer used to be as bad as pancreatic or bile duct cancer, but these days it's not a death sentence and a lot of people had to lose hard fought battles to get to this point.

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