How Cancer Is Slowly Killing You
Published August 16, 2021
Although cancer does not necessarily cause death, it is estimated that more than 600,000 people in the United States will die of cancer in 2021.
Cancer prognosis is highly dependent on the stage of the disease, with terminal cancer being incurable or untreatable. It is occasionally referred to as end-stage cancer. Any cancer type has the potential to progress to terminal cancer.
When detected just when cancer starts, it is easier to treat and has a greater chance of complete recovery. Often, early-stage cancer can be treated with a surgical procedure and probably some more chemotherapy. So how does cancer kill you? We’ll talk more about cancer stages in this article.
How Cancer Actually Kills
While cancer can result in mortality, it does not always lead to death. Cancer fatalities can be caused by a variety of factors, including the following:
- Organ failure as a result of a tumor’s size and stress
- Complications associated with surgery
- Organ rupture because of the tumor size
- Infection because of the immune system‘s ability to combat infection during the treatment of cancer
Because every organ in our body is connected somehow, all it takes is for one to begin shutting down to cause the rest to follow suit. So, finally, the cancer patient dies once every organ gives up.
The cause of death varies according to different types of cancer. So how does cancer kill you? Here are some further insights on how cancer actually kills.
Malignant hypercalcemia is a somewhat common complication of advanced-stage cancer, affecting up to 44% of patients.
As cancer progresses, some cancer cells make their way into blood vessels. When this occurs, cancer spreads easily throughout the body. Many people with cancerous tumors will develop malignant hypercalcemia as a result of the huge volume of blood that flows through our bone marrow daily. This increased blood flow facilitates cancer cells’ access to our bones.
Once a cancer cell establishes a base in the bone marrow, it multiplies and invades the healthy and functioning bone marrow.
Although the symptoms of malignant hypercalcemia can be ambiguous, a simple blood test to monitor calcium levels can assist medical teams in diagnosing and treating this problem.
Hypercalcemia, on the other hand, does not result in a considerable spread of malignancy to the bones. Another major cause of hypercalcemia in advanced cancer patients is paraneoplastic syndrome, associated with the synthesis of the parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrp). In this scenario, hypercalcemia has a negligible effect on bones.
Brain herniation is a typical complication for cancer patients. It can occur as a result of either primary brain cancer or cancer that has progressed to the brain.
Also, it occurs when the brain runs out of space inside the skull and attempts to create more space by locating folds or openings that contain accessible space. While a herniation of the brain can occur for different reasons, it is more than likely to emerge as a result of cancer growth inside the brain when someone has cancer.
Below are the most common brain herniation symptoms:
- Severe headaches
- Irregular pulse
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Loss of reflexes – such as swallowing, blinking, pupils reacting to light
- Getting into a coma
Breast cancer is known to be the most common cancer type. Two of the top causes of death for breast cancer patients are as follows:
Both of these conditions are caused by blood clots.
Because tumors emit a substance that increases the potential of your blood to clot, your risk of life-threatening blood clots increases. According to one cancer research, women with breast cancer have a three- to fourfold greater risk of fatal blood clots than women without cancer.
The concern with this case is not their presence; it is what happens when they dislodge from their formation site.
Because blood circulates throughout your body and is not restricted to a specific place, these clots may begin in your leg. They may, however, become lodged in another part of your body, such as your brain or lungs. When a blood clot becomes stuck in one of these places, blood flow is interrupted, which can be fatal.
- Warmth in your leg
It is crucial to call your doctor immediately if you encounter any of these symptoms.
Numerous advanced cancer types can cause blood clots, and they are not a problem that only affects women who have had breast cancer.
Vaginal or Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer, like breast cancer, increases the risk of blood clots.
Additionally, a tumor in this location can obstruct the ureter, resulting in a urine backup.
This obstruction also contributes to the likelihood of developing a disorder called uremia. Uremia occurs when the kidneys fail to adequately filter waste from the body, allowing it to back up into the bloodstream. When this happens, your body is often nearing the end of the kidney failure stages.
Without dialysis or a kidney transplant, uremia cannot be reversed.
There is a possibility that cancer or tumors in the abdominal region will grow large enough to restrict the movement of waste through vital organs such as the intestines.
Alternatively, these tumors can grow through the intestine or stomach wall, creating a breach that allows the contents of the bowel or stomach to pour into the intestinal cavity, resulting in severe infection.
Both instances carry a high risk of infection, particularly for patients with colorectal cancer.
There is an increased risk of respiratory failure in cancer patients. Indeed, respiratory failure is a common reason for admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) and is a significant cause of death in cancer patients.
Since cancer treatments frequently damage the body’s immune system, infections are more easily acquired. While there are other reasons for respiratory failure, pneumonia is the most frequent in cancer patients.
What Happens Next
Each person’s experience during the final weeks and days of cancer varies. Due to the unique nature of each event, it’s challenging to provide an exact checklist of symptoms, signs, or experiences to anticipate.
Specific individuals find solace in expressing their emotions and experiences with those closest to them. Others find the subject too tough to address and would rather avoid it entirely. Because this is such a personal choice, it is beneficial when individuals are honest about their desire to address or avoid this subject. When individuals understand what a patient wants, it becomes easier for them to provide support during this shift.
Many people take consolation in the fact that they will almost certainly pass out before they die. As a result, people will be unaware of what is occurring—much like falling asleep and not hearing the alarm go off.
One of the primary indicators that death is near is increased sleep and a sense of weakness.
There will be times when they appear to have their eyes closed and are not reacting. However, even if their eyes are closed, they can still hear you. Numerous researches indicate that hearing may be the final sense to be lost.
It’s critical to maintain contact with your loved ones, console them, and inform them when you leave or enter the room.
Additionally, there are changes in breathing patterns and a loss of bowel and bladder control, which allows muscles that do not usually relax to relax. If your loved one is receiving hospice care at home, the hospice nurse can safeguard the bed while simultaneously keeping your loved one clean and comfortable.
Numerous physical changes occur as the body begins the natural process of dying. While observing these changes can be unpleasant, they do not necessarily indicate that your loved one is in misery or agony.
Frequently, when someone is dying, others in their immediate vicinity have legitimate concerns for their loved one’s comfort. While the nurses and physicians will do everything possible to keep them comfortable, let them know if your loved one is restless, as this may indicate discomfort. Then, the medical professional may consider altering the treatment plan.
Loss of Appetite
Eventually, the dying person will lose the desire to eat or drink.
Attempting to coerce them into eating or drinking will just add to their misery and complicate the process. Instead, if they are thirsty or their mouth is dry, you might try giving them little pieces of ice or small sips of drink. Additionally, some people appear to find relief in having lip balm applied to their dry lips or swabbing their lips with water.
Weakened Heart Pumping
When someone dies, the heart’s pumping capacity decreases, limiting circulation to the extremities such as the arms, hands, legs, and feet. This results in the dying individual feeling numb to the touch.
Thick socks or blankets will keep them warm—but not a heated blanket. If heated blankets are not used properly, they might cause them to overheat or even burn. Unfortunately, due to their inability to communicate properly, kids are unlikely to be able to warn you if the blanket is becoming too hot.
Not Their Usual Self
As a cancer patient approaches death, he or she frequently says things that make no sense or are utterly out of character for them.
They may begin yelling or shoving you away, which can be uncomfortable for both you and anyone else who witnesses this unusual behavior. However, bear in mind that this conduct is not about you. It is simply a byproduct of the process. They are unaware of how they are acting due to an imbalance in their body’s chemistry.
The closer someone comes to death, the more out of balance the body’s chemicals become. This typically occurs within a few hours or days of death. At this stage, their breathing becomes uneven and occasionally noisy, and they are entirely unable to wake up.
Again, how does cancer kill you? It kills you slowly from the inside. So live while you still can, make the most of every day, and love the people around you. We never really know what the future has in store for us.
About The Author
As a professional writer at many renowned websites Krizzia Paolyn has covered a wide range of topics in many industries. Her knack for uncovering important truths and conducting thorough research on each topic she writes about has helped thousands of people across the world.