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End-of-Life Care Cancer Patients

Heartland Cancer Information Service, National Cancer Institute

When a person's cancer can no longer be controlled, cancer treatment often stops. But the care continues with a new focus: making the patient as comfortable as possible and providing emotional support. Some patients remain at home during this time, while others enter a hospital, hospice, or other facility. Either way, services are available to help patients and their families with the physical and emotional issues surrounding dying.

Here is some advice that may help:

  • Seek professional help when you need it. If you are caring for your relative at home, call the doctor or nurse for help in managing his or her symptoms. These may include increased pain, constipation, nausea, difficult breathing, and depression. Also seek help for yourself if you feel overwhelmed by caring for the person, or you feel too grieved or afraid to be with him/her.
  • Support the person emotionally by talking with him/her, watching movies, reading to him/her, or just sharing time together. Listen to his/her fears and concerns about dying. Give him/her information about the illness when asked. Reassure him that you will honor his advance directives (wishes about life support and other end-of-life decisions).
  • Learn the signs of approaching death and how to manage them. These may include increased drowsiness; confusion about time, place, and identities of loved ones; social withdrawal; and skin becoming cool to the touch, particularly the hands and feet.

For more information, call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER and ask for fact sheets on end-of-life care, hospice care, advance directives, and home care for cancer patients, and the National Cancer Institute booklet, "Advanced Cancer: Living Each Day." All materials are free.

"Ask the CIS" is distributed by the Cancer Information Service (CIS) of the Heartland, which serves Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri & Illinois. The CIS is a program of the National Cancer Institute. Call the CIS toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. local time.



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Last Updated 05/05/2009