Researchers identify eight signs of impending death in cancer patient

Hui, D. et al. Bedside clinical signs associated with impending death in patients with advanced cancer. Cancer Volume 121, Issue 6, pages 960–967, March 15, 2015

A research team has identified eight highly specific physical and cognitive signs associated with death within three days in cancer patients. Reporting in the journal Cancer, the investigators prospectively observed 357 cancer patients admitted to palliative care units.

They determined nonreactive pupils, a decreased response to verbal or visual stimuli, an inability to close eyelids, drooping of the nasolabial fold, hyperextension of the neck, grunting of vocal cords, and upper gastrointestinal bleeding as signs of impending death. “Knowing when death is imminent would provide more information so caregivers can plan appropriately,” said David Hui, MD, of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the study’s corresponding author.


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