Estimating Life Expectancy From Chinese Medicine Could Improve End-of-Life Care in Terminally Ill Cancer Patients


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Abstract

Preparing for a good death is an important and meaningful concept in Chinese culture because people hope to know residual life to make effort for their unfinished business. However, the family of terminally ill patients with cancer may be annoyed and frustrated about unexpected bereavement if they have unresolved conflicts with the loved one, missing a chance for declaring love, untimely apologizing and saying goodbye. The study aimed to explore this difficult issue. The medical records of 121 deceased terminally ill patients with cancer at National Cheng Kung University Hospital between December 2010 and February 2012 were reviewed. The signs and awareness of dying among these patients were collected using palliative routine instruments in the hospice ward. The top 3 most prevalent dying signs were coolness and cyanosis (prevalence 98.3%, median period from the first documented dying sign to death 2 days, P = .028), mirror-like tongue (prevalence 94.2%, median period 5 days, P = .007), and earlobe crease (prevalence 93.4%, median period 4 days, P = .052). In addition, the prevalence of dying awareness was 71.1% (median period 4 days, P = .001). Furthermore, terminal agitation was identified more frequently in terminally ill patients with hepatoma and colon cancer (adjusted odds ratio = 3.240, P = .043), but turbid sclera with edema was noted more often in terminally ill patients with head and neck cancer (adjusted odds ratio = 5.698, P = .042). The results provide evidence to support clinical practice, offering knowledge and techniques to health care providers, and increasing quality of life for terminally ill patients with cancer.

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