New York: Many cancer patients do not win the battle against cancer and researchers in the US have now identified eight specific signs that a patient has entered the final days of life.
Theses signs include: nonreactive pupils, decreased response to verbal stimuli, decreased response to visual stimuli, inability to close eyelids, drooping of the nasolabial fold, neck hyperextension, grunting of vocal cords, and upper gastrointestinal bleeding.
Patients with these signs may die within three days, the researchers noted.
"When cancer patients reach the last days of life, this is an extremely emotional time for families - their stress levels cannot be understated," explained the study's corresponding author David Hui, assistant professor at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
"Knowing when death is imminent would provide more information so caregivers can plan appropriately. For clinicians, having this information could help reassure families that we are providing the best care possible," Hui pointed out.
For the prospective study, the researchers observed 357 cancer patients admitted to the respective palliative care units, of which 57 percent ultimately died.
The researchers systematically observed 52 physical and cognitive signs -- identified by Hui and colleagues in previous research -- twice a day from the patient's admission to discharge or death.
Of those 52 signs, the researchers identified the eight most highly associated with impending death within three days.
The study appeared in the journal Cancer.