Signs You’re Going to Die From Cancer

Cancer mortality rates continue to drop. The American Cancer Society reports a 26% overall decline from 1991 to 2015. But while progress is being made with lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers, lung cancer continues to have the most deaths.

Unfortunately, some patients still enter end-stage cancer. And knowing the signs a person might be dying from cancer is vital to obtaining proper pain management and end-of-life care. So what should you look for?

1. Loss of interest

Lying down and sad

Is the patient uninterested in the world? | iStock.com/Marjan_Apostolovic 

Losing interest in news, entertainment, or family and friends might be a sign of giving up, according to Cancer.net. Also, reducing time with friends or visitors is another sign of being uninterested in life.

Next: This could be why the patient doesn’t feel like being social.

2. Exhaustion

Women in bed

Spending more and more time in bed is a bad sign. | AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

While fighting cancer can sap energy levels, an increase in weakness and exhaustion is another signal cancer might be worsening, Cancer.net reports. Also, the desire to sleep more and spend more time in bed is another end-of-life sign. Nearly everyone with advanced-stage cancer experiences fatigue, according to the American Cancer Society.

Next: This symptom might influence exhaustion.

3. Weight loss

Woman weighing her weight

Weight loss isn’t always a good thing. | iStock.com/Rostislav_Sedlacek

Muscle atrophy and weight loss might occur, according to Cancer.net. And appetite might change because the body is slowing down, according to the American Cancer Society. Food no longer looks or tastes appetizing, and the patient will feel full quicker.

Next: This might make it difficult to eat.

4. Pain

Feeling pain

Be mindful of the pain. | Andrey Popov/iStock/Getty Images

A health care provider can help manage the pain, so it is important to openly communicate symptoms, according to the American Cancer Society. Keep a record of the pain to help the doctor prescribe the best medication.

Next: These are common signs of pain.

5. Know the signs of pain

Senior woman neck pain

Is there tension? | iStock.com/doo_yikyik 

Some cancer patients might be unable to successfully communicate they are in pain. So some signs include labored breathing, moaning sounds, sad or tense facial expressions, or body tension, according to the American Cancer Society.

Next: This is a sign of pain — and an overall problem to watch.

6. Breathing problems

Woman having trouble in breathing

A patient might experience shortness of breath. | iStock.com/OcusFocus

Breathing problems are common in end-stage cancer, the American Cancer Society notes. A patient might experience shortness of breath or fast breathing or feel as though their lungs are filling with liquid. Explain breathing issues to the doctor for assistance, which might include medication or changing positions.

Next: This is possible and needs attention.

7. Mucus can build up in the throat

Painful neck

That rattling sound is not a healthy sign. | Tharakorn/iStock/Getty Images

A patient might not be able to cough up secretions if mucus collects in the back of the throat, often creating a rattling sound. Caregivers can loosen secretions by adding humidity to the room, changing the patient’s positions, or asking for medications.

Next: Doing this might be challenging.

8. This issue might be due to respiratory challenges

Older taking Multi Vits

Taking pills in liquid or patch form might be necessary. | Seb_ra/iStock/Getty Images

Medication is important for end-of-life care. But some patients have trouble swallowing pills, according to the American Cancer Society. If pills are an issue, request medication in liquid or patch form.

Next: Don’t be alarmed if this happens.

9. Cognition might change

Distressed woman

Mental focus might shift. | V_Sot/iStock/Getty Images

A patient’s general ability to focus and attention span might wane — and they might be confused about time, place, or recognizing people, the American Cancer Society notes. Try to remain calm, and don’t make sudden moves that could add anxiety.

Next: Patient temperature might feel like this.

10. Body temperature changes

Feeling cold

The patient might be cold. | Vladans/iStock/Getty Images

Body extremities might feel cool due to slowing circulation. Keep the patient warm by applying warm blankets, but avoid using heating pads or electric blankets.

Next: Skin changes might occur.

11. Skin changes

Change in skin

Color and texture of the skin can change. | Staras/iStock/Getty Images

Skin changes might occur as the body temperature begins to drop. Extremities can appear bluish or mottled. Also, some areas might appear dark or pale.

Next: This bodily function might change.

12. Elimination can change

Bathroom

Bathroom visits might be challenging. | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

Elimination control might be challenging. Also, urine output might be dark or decrease. Caregivers can use a catheter and waterproof pads if elimination control is an issue.

Next: If this happens, ask one important question.

13. This sense might change

Vision test

Eyesight could shift, as well. | Seb_ra/iStock/Getty Images

Vision changes can occur, which might include blurriness or dimness. Pupil size might not change, so assess the situation by asking the patient if they can still hear your voice. Hearing can also be compromised. Continue to touch and reassure the patient you are present, and provide encouraging words.

Next: This might happen emotionally.

14. Emotional changes can occur

Upset old lady

They might experience stages of grief. | Daisy-Daisy/iStock/Getty Images

The patient might experience the stages of grief — which include fear, anger, guilt, regret, depression, and anxiety — according to the American Cancer Society. The person might feel alone or seek meaning to why this is happening.

Next: How can you help?

15. End-of-life care

Hospice nurse

The final stages of cancer can be particularly painful. | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

Hospice care can make the patient feel comfortable during the final stage of cancer. Care focuses on quality of life and can be used for several months, which can ease many end-stage symptoms. Providers can visit patients in their homes, so they are more comfortable. And they can offer both physical and spiritual guidance.

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