What is terminal cancer, its life expectancy, and treatment options?

What is terminal cancer, its life expectancy, and treatment options?
6 May 2024
10 mins
Table Of Content
What is terminal cancer, its life expectancy, and treatment options?

    In the hushed corridors of hospitals and the intimate spaces of homes, there’s a profound struggle playing out. It’s not a battle of armies, but a battle fought quietly, courageously, against cancer. Imagine facing each day with the uncertainty of how many you have left. For those confronting terminal cancer, every breath is a testament to strength, every moment a precious gift. They endure pain, fear, and doubt, yet amid this darkness, there's a flicker of hope—a collective effort to ease their burden, to bring comfort and relief. Today, we journey into their world, to understand their struggles, and to discover the many ways we can make their journey a little less daunting, a little more bearable.


    What is terminal cancer?


    Terminal cancer is otherwise known as end-stage cancer, which cannot be controlled or treated with any other treatment options. It is different from advanced-stage cancer, where there exists an option to control the effect of cancer or to cure it completely. Patients who are affected by advanced cancer have a rapid spread of cancer cells to nearby tissues or other parts of the body. Terminal cancer can occur for any type of cancer patient who is in the stage 4 or final stage of the cancer.


    What are the end-stage cancer symptoms?


    Terminal cancer patients can experience the symptoms which are given below:


    1. Fatigue: Individuals may experience exhaustion or feeling tired without doing any stressful activities.
    2. Vomiting: Patients may experience vomiting or forceful throwing up of food from the stomach.
    3. Loss of appetite: Individuals may experience a loss of appetite or lose an interest in eating the foods.
    4. Weight loss: Patients can experience sudden weight loss due to the eating disorder.
    5. Feeling unwell: Individuals may experience uncomfortable feelings or discomfort.
    6. Delirium: Patients may experience a serious change in mental ability, which can lead to confused thinking and a lack of awareness of their surroundings.
    7. Shortness of breath: Individuals may experience difficulty breathing or discomfort during breathing.
    8. Coughing: Individuals may have a continuous cough, which can lead to discomfort.
    9. Constipation: Patients may have trouble passing the stool.
    10. Trouble swallowing: Individuals may experience trouble in swallowing the foods and liquids which can lead to loss of appetite and weight loss.
    11. Myoclonic jerks: Patients may have a sudden muscle jerk that they cannot control.
    12. Fever: Individuals may have a rise in body temperature or an abnormal increase in body temperature.


    What is the Life expectancy of terminal cancer patients?


    The Life expectancy of a terminal cancer patient is usually shorter when compared to others who are in different stages of cancer. The life expectancy of an individual is based on various factors, 


    • Cancer type
    • The overall health of the individual
    • Health issues other than cancer.


    Some of the methods like Karnofsky performance scale, Palliative prognostic score are helpful in estimating the life expectancy of an individual. However, these estimations are just predictions which help people and doctors to make decisions according to the timelines.


    Are there any treatment options available for terminal cancer?


    The fact is that terminal cancer is incurable and does not respond to any type of cancer treatment. But, there are some options in which a person can make the rest of the lifetime valuable through non-medicine approaches. Some of the options are given below:


    1. Palliative care: 

    Palliative care is a holistic approach to elevate the quality of patients ' lives and their families who are facing struggles with life-threatening illnesses. It starts when the disease is diagnosed and continues even with the treatment. Palliative cancer is essential for patients who choose to stop the cancer treatment due to its lack of improvement and worsening side effects. Palliative can usually include the following processes, which are given below:

    • It helps to treat or prevent the cancer symptoms and its treatment side effects.
    • It provides emotional and spiritual support to the patients.
    • It helps to address both the patients and the family's concerns.


    2. Hospice care:

    Hospice care is a specialised approach in which medical, psychological and spiritual support are given to patients and their families in situations where there is no option in treating the cancer. Hospice can help to provide comforts and care to the patients and the families members.


    Here are the 8 major things you need to know about hospice care:


    1. Hospice care is not similar to palliative care: You might be confused that both hospice and palliative care are similar due to the comfort and support they provide to the patient. However, this is not the case; palliative care can be started from the diagnosis of cancer till the treatment or after the end of the treatment, whereas hospice care is focused only on relieving the symptoms and providing support at the end stage of a patient.
    2. Hospice care is about caring and not meant to cure: The hospice care is mainly focusing on providing relief from pain and symptoms of cancer. It is not meat to cure any disease in the individuals.
    3. Going for hospice care doesn't mean that you have given up hope: Hopsire care can help you provide hope for a good quality of life for the remaining period where you're going to live.
    4. Hospice care can be given in any place: Hospice care can be given in the patient's home. But, it can also be given in hospitals and nursing homes, which generally consist of medical and nursing services, medical supplies and equipment, medicines for managing cancer-related symptoms and pain, inpatient care (short term), volunteers for substituting the caregiver, counseling and spiritual care, social work services, grief counseling and support team.
    5. Hospice is full of trained people: Hospice consist of trained professionals and volunteers like doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, clergy or other counsellors, speech, physical and occupational therapists.
    6. Hospice can give support for months: If you want to start hospice care, you can't wait for the last day or week of life. Hospice can provide support even before one month of your last life expectancy.
    7. You need to get a certificate: You can receive hospice care if you are registered with insurance (such as Medicare), which requires a statement from your healthcare provider and the hospice medical director indicating that you have a life expectancy of a month or less. This statement initiates hospice care, which can be continued even after six months if your doctor provides recertification for it.
    8. You can stop hospice care if you want: Hospice care can be terminated at any time if a patient feels that he/she doesn't want to continue it or is switching over to cancer treatment again.


    3. Clinical trial:


    Another option people can choose during their end-stage cancer is clinical trials. Clinical trials are procedures that are conducted to find the appropriate dose and to ensure the safety of a medicine before it is approved or entering into the market. Terminal cancer patients who are eligible for clinical trials are joined due to the hope that the new medicine can aid in treating them, or they want to participate to benefit the patient in the end stage of their life.


    Final Notes!


    Patients who are in the stage of terminal cancer need appropriate guidance that will help them lead a comfortable and fulfilled life in the last period of their lifetime. Let's give care and hope to those super souls who are counting their days.

    Written by
    Ishwarya RMedical Content Writer
    AboutIshwary R is a Medical Content Writer at MrMed. She completed her PG from the University of Madras, Chennai. She did her final year project in CSIR-CLRI, Adyar, entitled Studies on production of Biosurfactant by bacillus subtilis using Leather industry bioproduct. She did her offline internship and learned clinical Laboratory skills in Billroth hospital and her online internship in SS Healthcare. She strengthened her skills in research, writing, editing, and proofreading medical content, blogs, and scientific articles.
    Tags :Terminal cancerlife expectancyterminal cancer care