Final Symptoms of Terminal Lung Cancer and Dying
Death is an art
Do People Know When They Are Dying?
Dying is an individual life event. Yes, it is part of life. When a friend or loved one begins experiencing the final symptoms of terminal lung cancer, there can be a lot of variation to how the process unfolds. Some people will feel great pain, others not so much. Some approach dying in the same way that they dealt with life, with gusto. Some have disabling fear. Some people die quickly, others linger. Loved ones want to help, but they need to know how best to recognize the dying process and its symptoms.
After working in the medical field for over 38 years, my coworkers and I have seen almost every conceivable type of death event.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the following list indicates what most of us here in the United States can expect to die from:
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer's disease and old age
- Influenza and Pneumonia
- Kidney disease
Unfortunately, death will eventually affect us all in one way or another. How we deal with it is what concerns us most.
If you have a loved one dying of lung cancer, you will observe many of these signs of dying. There are some distinct stages of the dying process that may help you deal with the grief that comes from seeing a close friend or family member slip into the quietness of death.
Mourning the death of a loved one
The final symptoms of terminal lung cancer and death watch
The following events are predicted for almost any cancer victim. The symptoms follow a pattern that is common to death and dying and may occur in any type of death event. They may also occur in any order, and may skip through a predicted episode completely. These phases may last for many months, or they may be briefly expressed.
Lung cancer’s obvious symptom is shortness of breath. As the malignant cells invade the lung tissue and build masses, the lungs are increasingly unable to process the exchange of air. Sometimes the tumors obstruct the airways. Fluid builds up in the lungs. Cancer tumors are fragile and often bleed causing the person to cough up blood.
Weight loss is common to cancer victims. Medications and the disease itself destroy the appetite. The tumors can obstruct the esophagus and make swallowing difficult.
Cancer cells from the lungs travel to other parts of the body and tumors can grow in the brain, abdomen and bones. Pain can occur wherever these cells have attached.
If the brain is involved, symptoms can include neurological problems. Headaches, speech impairment and seizures. These and other symptoms can be caused by brain tumors.
Lung cancer patients can have mild to excruciating bone pain, or no pain at all.
Cancerous tumors in the abdomen may cause pain of the liver, stomach or other organs. Other abdominal pain may be due to the general effort of breathing as the diaphragm becomes weaker and weaker.
Active Dying Phase, or the Final Symptoms
As the patient nears the actual point of death, the symptoms change and become quite distinct. The skin becomes cool and bluish. Wet and clammy skin is evident as perspiration increases.
Appetite may actually increase for a short while which gives false hope of a rebound to the caretaker. Then the appetite and thirst completely disappear and the patient will refuse to eat or drink anything.
Breathing becomes irregular and the so-called “death rattle” is heard due to Increased secretions in the back of the throat.
The patient may become irritated and confused even to the point of seeing hallucinations. Some have stated that they see people from “the other side” that have passed before them.
The final symptom is a profound deep sleep. During this sleep, the dying person will simply stop breathing and their heart will stop beating. The end is generally peaceful and caretakers usually find comfort in being in the room with the body as they say the final goodbye.
Cemeteries are Restful Places
After Your Loved One Dies
The purpose of this article is to help people understand the active dying process. It is very hard to watch someone you love go through the stages of death. This is the part where I've personally had experience. Although each case is unique, most cases do follow a predictable pattern.
Your situation will be different. It will be up-close and personal. It will be hard. But this, too, shall pass.
I have included a very good video just for you. It will help you on your journey through the grieving process. Since each of us is going to handle things differently, don't see it as the only way to handle grief. It is just a road map.
You may actually become so overwhelmed with grief that you may need professional grief counseling. Don't hesitate, get it! There is no shame in seeking help for your very real pain and anguish.
Seeing death on an almost daily basis makes many medical professionals hardened to this process. Find someone who is empathetic and can get you the help you need. There are support groups specifically designed to help us find our way through the pain of death. You can find support groups through your hospital, hospice clinic, place of worship, community center, etc.
We can't live forever, but we can help each other live through every stage of life.
For more information on death and dying, there are many books available through Amazon, or through your local bookstore or library. A very good one that I recommend is , by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and Ira Byock M.D. On Death and Dying
The Grieving Process
Questions & Answers
© 2010 Lela