Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) family announced on August 24, 2018, that McCain has elected to stop treatment for his glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer. Although his health had surpassed his original prognosis for many months, “the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict. With his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment,” his family explained.

Oncology nurses have a responsibility throughout a patient’s cancer journey to ensure patient goals are met, even when they change as disease progresses. McCain’s nurses likely worked closely with him and his family to educate them about options and expectations so they could have a realistic understanding to make their decisions.

“Nurses play a key role in awareness of the evolving wishes of patients across the continuum of care,” ONS Chief Clinical Officer Lisa Kennedy Sheldon, PhD, APRN-BC, AOCNP®, said. “Because nurses spend the most time with patients, they have opportunities to hear patient concerns and respond to questions about cancer care. They also can work with the interprofessional team to share changes in care and patient preferences.”

During such critical times in patient and family experiences, oncology nurses take a lead role in communicating with and advocating for people with advanced cancer so they can make informed choices that reflect their goals of care.

Learn more about oncology nursing and advance care planning.