Management of Non-pain Symptoms in Terminally Ill Cancer Patients: Based on National Comprehensive Cancer Network Guidelines

말기암환자에서 통증 외 증상의 관리: 최신 NCCN(National Comprehensive Cancer Netweork) 권고안을 중심으로

  • Lee, Hye Ran (Division of Hemato/Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, Inje University Ilsan Paik Hospital)
  • 이혜란 (인제대학교 일산백병원 혈액종양내과)
  • Received : 2013.11.02
  • Accepted : 2013.11.21
  • Published : 2013.12.01


Most terminally ill cancer patients experience various physical and psychological symptoms during their illness. In addition to pain, they commonly suffer from fatigue, anorexia-cachexia syndrome, nausea, vomiting and dyspnea. In this paper, I reviewed some of the common non-pain symptoms in terminally ill cancer patients, based on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines to better understand and treat cancer patients. Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a common symptom in terminally ill cancer patients. There are reversible causes of fatigue, which include anemia, sleep disturbance, malnutrition, pain, depression and anxiety, medical comorbidities, hyperthyroidism and hypogonadism. Energy conservation and education are recommended as central management for CRF. Corticosteroid and psychostimulants can be used as well. The anorexia and cachexia syndrome has reversible causes and should be managed. It includes stomatitis, constipation and uncontrolled severe symptoms such as pain or dyspnea, delirium, nausea/vomiting, depression and gastroparesis. To manage the syndrome, it is important to provide emotional support and inform the patient and family of the natural history of the disease. Megesteol acetate, dronabinol and corticosteroid can be helpful. Nausea and vomiting will occur by potentially reversible causes including drug consumption, uremia, infection, anxiety, constipation, gastric irritation and proximal gastrointestinal obstruction. Metoclopramide, haloperidol, olanzapine and ondansetron can be used to manage nausea and vomiting. Dyspnea is common even in terminally ill cancer patients without lung disease. Opioids are effective for symptomatic management of dyspnea. To improve the quality of life for terminally ill cancer patients, we should try to ameliorate these symptoms by paying more attention to patients and understanding of management principles.


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