The top 5 symptoms of terminal cancer

Cancer symptoms vary depending on how far the cancer has progressed. It’s a sliding scale of severity, with the final stages marking the most extreme end of the spectrum. “Individuals with cancer often experience many symptoms that impair their quality of life at end of life,” researchers wrote in a study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

They examined symptom experience at end of life among individuals with cancer, and determined if symptom experience changes with proximity to death, or differs by depressive symptomatology, sex, site of cancer, or age.

Analysis of data from three prospective, descriptive, longitudinal studies was performed.

In a longitudinal study subjects are followed over time with continuous or repeated monitoring of risk factors or health outcomes, or both.

The analysis employs pooled data from cancer patients who died during one of three descriptive longitudinal studies.

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To ensure the data was reliable, all studies required that the individuals have a diagnosis of cancer, be cognitively intact, and be able to speak, read, and write English.

Individuals under the care of a psychologist or psychiatrist, or with a diagnosed emotional or psychological disorder, were excluded.

What did the researchers find out?

Fatigue, weakness, pain, shortness of breath, and cough were the five most prevalent symptoms in the “last year of life”, the researchers wrote.

They continued: “The symptom experience in the last year of life was significantly associated with site of cancer, depressive symptomatology, dependencies in activities of daily living, and independent activities of daily living at the start of the study.”

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The researchers concluded: “These findings shed light on the symptom experience in the last year of life for individuals with cancer.

“With greater understanding of the symptom experience, intervention strategies can be targeted to achieve the desired outcome of increased quality of life at end of life.”

Do not delay

It’s important to remember that many of the symptoms highlighted above are also associated with earlier stages of cancer.

“Whatever your age, it’s always best to listen to your body and talk to your doctor if something doesn’t feel quite right,” advises Cancer Research UK.

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The charity continues: “Whether it’s a change that’s new, unusual, or something that won’t go away – get it checked out.”

It’s also important to remember that many of the symptoms are more often a sign of something far less serious – but if it is cancer, spotting it early can make a real difference.

There are more than 200 different types of cancer, and each is diagnosed and treated in a particular way.

Speak to a GP if you’ve noticed changes in your usual bowel habits and it’s lasted for three weeks or more.

Can I reduce my risk?

Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer.

For example:

  • Healthy eating
  • Taking regular exercise
  • Not smoking.

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, around one in three cases of the most common cancers (about 33 percent) could be prevented by eating a healthy diet, keeping to a healthy weight and being more active.

“But you cannot reduce your risk completely through your lifestyle.”

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