Last Stages of Brain Cancer
More Than Just a Headache
The last stages of brain cancer can be extremely trying for patients and their families. Despite the recent advances in the treatment of brain cancer, people do succumb to this devastating disease. One way to ease the suffering a bit is to be prepared for what will happen in last stages of brain cancer. This knowledge will help the proper preparations to be made and ease the troubles of this trying time.
Many of the symptoms that were present early in the disease are present in the last stages of brain cancer except they are generally worse. One of the most troubling symptoms for patients and especially their families is the personality changes that occur because of the disease. Patients become moody and withdrawn, exhibit bizarre behaviors and can become belligerent and even violent toward those who are trying to give them care. Families are already watching their loved one slip away from them and are trying to provide the best help that they can, only to get verbally or physically attacked. If family members are not aware that the brain tumor can cause this behavioral abnormality they may withdraw themselves or develop animosity or hostility toward the patient. It is so very important to remember that a tumor is growing inside the brain and that the tumor itself can be directly to blame. These bizarre behaviors are part of the last stages of brain cancer and are not the true behaviors of the patient. Try to think of how the patient was before the illness and know that if they could control themselves, they would not act this way.
Treatment Side Effects
Presumably by the time the patient has reached the last stages of brain cancer one or more treatments have been attempted including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Each of these treatments, while aimed at removing the cancer, can affect normal brain function. Often a tumor grows very near normal brain tissue and even the best surgeons need to remove normal brain in an effort to remove all of the cancer. This can mean disability on the part of the patient. Physical therapy helps but requires great effort and time of patients and family members. Patience is essential to regaining the abilities that were lost. Also, chemotherapy and radiation can cause sickness themselves. It is not uncommon for horrible nausea and vomiting to ensue. There are powerful drugs that doctors can give to sometimes help with these issues, but occasionally it is up to patients and families to ask for them. Do not be afraid to ask—the doctors and nurses are there to help in this difficult time.
Cancer pain can be some of the worst pain imaginable, especially if it moves into bone. Doctors can prescribe powerful opiate medicine to control pain. Opiate medicines like morphine and are related to drugs of abuse like opium and heroin. Therefore some patients and their families are sometimes worried that they may become addicted to these medicines. Understand that when morphine-like drugs are used for pain, the chance of addiction is much less than one percent—essentially zero. However, controlling cancer pain is fundamental to ease the suffering of patients in the last stages of brain cancer. Doctors should always ask about pain control and if they do not, make sure that you bring it up. Physicians are trained to use as much pain medicine as is safe and required to keep the patient as comfortable as possible. Talking about the issue ensures that it will get handled appropriately.
The last stages of brain cancer are very trying and require the communication between the patient, the family, doctors, nurses, physical therapists and hospice care workers. The end of life can be challenging and emotional, especially in the last stages of brain cancer, yet professionals are always available to guide patients and families through the process—the key is to access them.
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