Cancer is a fairly progressive group of diseases involving the abnormal growth of cells that can potentially spread to and invade other parts of the body. For terminal cancer patients entering the final stages of cancer, this can mean that larger cancers (tumors) have significantly grown into surrounding tissue, and that the cancer is now spreading to other organs or parts of the body, further damaging the immune system and leading to an array of bodily symptoms. In this article, learn more about the common symptoms of late-stage cancer and how hospice care can assist your loved one throughout this difficult period.
Common Symptoms Of Late Stage Cancer
The later stages of cancer are generally the most trying and arduous for cancer-patients, with the onset of a variety of symptoms including:
Loss Of Appetite/Weight Loss
As a person nears the final stages of cancer, they will generally find it difficult to eat or drink or may lose their appetite almost completely, even for foods they habitually enjoy. Your loved one may lose considerable weight and muscle mass, which can make them extremely thin and lead to poor nutrition. Keep in mind that this is a completely normal process: as your loved one nears their end of life, the more their body’s digestive systems will slow down, making it impossible for them to digest food and water. Also know that while watching your loved one lose weight may be disturbing to experience, encouraging your them to increase their appetite will not make them live longer.
Similar to loss of appetite, your loved one may not feel like drinking, mainly due to their inability to swallow or drink enough fluid. This can lead to dehydration, which can often amplify their weight loss, confusion, nausea or restlessness. If your loved can’t drink enough fluid, fluids can be given to them intravenously (through the vein), however, keep in mind that this is considered a palliative situation and is predicated on the patient’s wishes.
Another common symptom of those suffering from late-stage cancer is tiring easily and having significantly less energy. Your loved one may be less alert or active, be regularly drowsy, or simply tired all the time. Bear in mind that fatigue can also significantly affect their mood, appetite and behavior. All the more reason to make the most of the moments you have left with them, when they are not feeling tired or restless.
Nausea and Vomiting
People with late-stage cancer often have problems with chronic nausea and vomiting, often making them regularly feel queasy or making them unable to eat or drink without the urge to vomit. Nausea can be caused by pain-relieving drugs, constipation, cancer growth, a blockage of the bowel, or slow digestion. What’s more, anxiety or fatigue can often exasperate these feelings, making them worse. Take note of the duration of your loved one’s vomiting; vomiting that lasts for more than a day is considered severe, and should be treated by a doctor.
Other common symptoms of late-stage cancer include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, skin problems (dryness, itching, thin-skin, or redness over joints), mouth problems (sore throat or dry mouth) and frequent constipation. Contact your loved one’s oncologist or doctor if you see any of these signs, it may be time for hospice care.
The Benefits Of Hospice Care For Cancer Patients
With the onset of new and aggressive late-stage symptoms, the final stages of cancer can be troubling for cancer patients and their loved ones alike. Fortunately, hospice care is available for late-stage cancer patients who have received a diagnosis of six months or less to live.
Hospice care is a form of specialized care available for late-cancer patients that focuses on the palliation of their pain and symptoms, while attending to their holistic needs. Centered around addressing all of a patient’s needs—be they physical, emotional, social or spiritual—hospice care strives to advance the wellbeing of cancer patients, holistically and compassionately. Moreover, your loved one’s health will be consistently monitored and evaluated by a team of hospice care professionals—doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, and counselors—to ensure that their care is continually modified and coordinated to meet their changing needs and symptoms.
Hospice will ensure that your loved one is comfortable, free of pain, and able to enjoy life as much as possible throughout their time in hospice. Furthermore, by working to identify care goals, needs and wishes, hospice care takes steps to ensure that patients experience the final stages of life in the best way possible, and with dignity. Hospice care will also assist caregivers and patient family members by providing 24-hour on-call support, respite care, and emotional guidance throughout the tumultuous process.
If your loved one begins experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, speak to their doctor about hospice care right away, or ask a hospice professional about how hospice can help. As soon as your loved one receives approval from their oncologist or an attending physician, they can begin hospice care. Keep in mind that hospice is for patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live, rather than common misconception of the final days of life. The sooner your loved one is admitted, the faster than can begin obtaining the benefits hospice care provides.
Speak To Harbor Light Hospice For More Information
For more information about the symptoms of late-stage cancer or to learn more about how hospice care can assist you and your loved one, speak to Harbor Light Hospice. Our comprehensive hospice care program provides care for hundreds of cancer patients experiencing the closing stages of their disease. Find out how our supportive, empathetic hospice care service teams and extensive network of hospice volunteers can improve your loved one’s well being today!