Asked and Answered


    Symptoms of Illness

    A need for laxatives doesn’t mean there’s a bowel obstruction. People who are seriously ill often have trouble with bowel function. Laxatives are used to treat this before it has a chance to create a bowel obstruction. Two main reasons why a person who’s ill may need a laxative are: Some cancers affect how the bowel works. Any tumor located... read more...
    Several things affect how long someone can live with a blocked large intestine (also called a bowel obstruction ). Surgery may be considered if it has the potential to solve the problem by removing or reducing the obstruction. Surgery is an option if the blockage is caused by a tumor pressing on the bowel, or if there’s scar tissue or twisting... read more...
    From what you describe, your brother is showing signs of confusion. By understanding more about confusion, you can better understand what he is going through and what can be done. Confusion occurs when the brain is not working properly. Confused people often have problems remembering, paying attention, speaking, thinking, and understanding... read more...
    People who have lung cancer can be drowsy for several reasons. Most are problems that can be life-threatening if left untreated. Therefore, if a patient with lung cancer appears drowsy, it’s very important that she or he be seen by a health care provider as soon as possible. These are the most common problems that may cause drowsiness in someone... read more...
    Each of us has reserves of energy that we use every day. Healthy people can replenish their energy stores. People with progressive illnesses use their energy stores to get through each day, but their illness prevents them from being able to top up their reserves. So they’re constantly spending their "energy savings. " A big challenge is that... read more...
    Some of the possible causes of hallucinations in cancer patients are: medications, especially strong painkillers, such as morphine or Dilaudid; chemical imbalances in the blood, such as high levels of calcium caused by a tumor; infections; tumor that has spread to the brain. It is important that a patient experiencing hallucinations be seen... read more...
    Drowsiness or sleepiness is a common, temporary side effect of an increased dosage of morphine or other opioids. It usually takes two or three days to go away, but it can take longer. Occasionally it’s necessary to try other opioid medications to find the one that has fewest side effects for that person. The overall fatigue that people feel... read more...
    To ensure that a pain scale is serving its intended purpose, it helps to understand how it works. A pain scale is used to help assess severity of pain. Only the person experiencing pain can know exactly what it feels like, but describing it with words or numbers helps other people, particularly health care providers, at least understand something... read more...
    Pain often affects someone’s sleep quality, amount of sleep, and ability to fall asleep. If pain is treated then sleep usually improves. If the pain is treated and sleep is still a problem, there may be other options. A variety of medications may help. An anti-anxiety medication, which has sedative effects, can promote calm, so someone can... read more...
    Almost all pain is controllable at all stages of an illness and at the end of life. It’s important to treat pain whenever it’s felt. There are many medications and options available. Dosages of some medications may be increased, or the medications may be changed. Several pain medications do not have an upper limit, so they can be increased... read more...
    It’s normal to be concerned about what’s happening and not to know what to say. It may help to come at this problem from a different angle. Sometimes it’s good to look at what’s behind a symptom. Your mother may find some meaning in putting up with pain without regular medication. She may want to try to overcome the pain on her own, and this... read more...
    When a cancer has spread to a bone, it causes the structure of the bone to break down or to become abnormal. This also can cause swelling in the area. During these processes, the body sends a signal to the brain that there’s something wrong with that part of the body, which produces the sensation of pain. The pain of a bone metastasis is usually... read more...
    Your current situation must seem overwhelming. So it’s natural to want to take control. In hospice, you can have a lot of control over your own health care. Before you enter hospice, it’s a good idea to meet with your health care team. They are the doctors and nurses who will provide your care. Review how you are feeling now and what might... read more...
    It’s common for secretions to build up in the lungs of people who are nearing death. The dying person usually doesn’t have enough strength left to cough and clear the fluids that continue to be produced by the lungs. Gradually these secretions collect. Generally it’s not helpful to suction secretions when someone is near the end of life. The... read more...
    Difficulty breathing is also called shortness of breath or dyspnea . It’s a common symptom in many diseases, especially in advanced stages. Many people describe it as feeling "hungry for air. " Opioid medications are commonly used to help control shortness of breath. In advanced stages of an illness, the treatment approach is similar to that... read more...
    Swelling reflects the burden of illness on a person’s body. As the illness progresses, the burden increases further, and swelling may increase as well. If the swelling is the result of fluid collecting in the abdomen, it likely can be drained by paracentesis . As the rate of accumulation increases, paracentesis may be more frequent. At late... read more...
    In people with cancer, swelling of the stomach or abdominal area can have a few different causes. Fluid may collect in the area of the body containing the abdominal organs. This fluid is called ascites . It may result from the tumor causing the body to produce more fluid, or the tumor may be blocking the normal flow of fluid through the lymph... read more...