A symptom is physical evidence of a disease or illness that you experience.

Health care professionals might sometimes use symptom terms that are new to you. Always ask if you are uncertain about something.

Some common symptoms that people with palliative care needs may experience, and the terms used by clinicians for these include:

  • anorexia - poor appetite. This can be due to many reasons including mouth problems, nausea, pain, constipation, or medication effects.
  • anxiety - anxious is when a person feels scared or worried about something. Anxiety is when these feelings do not go away. It is common among people with palliative care needs.
  • constipation - when bowel movements occur less frequently than usual. This can be due to many things including less intake of food and drink, less activity, medications, or even feeling anxious.
  • depression - feeling sad for weeks, months, or even years. This might be something you have always experienced. It might also be due to your medications, stress, or your illness.
  • dehydration - loss of a lot of water from your body. This might happen with diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • delirium - sudden confusion or inability to focus or understand what is going on. This is very common at the end of life but can also be due to other causes such as response to medications, infection, or hospitalisation.
  • dysphagia - difficulty swallowing. This is more common in people with dementia or other brain diseases. The brain controls swallowing. As a disease progresses the ability to swallow can be lost.
  • dyspnoea - trouble breathing or breathlessness. This shortness of breath can be due to many reasons including overall weakness due to your illness, lung problems such as asthma, and anxiety.
  • fatigue - extreme tiredness that does not go away with sleep. This can be distressing and is common in palliative care. Some causes can be treated.
  • nausea - feeling that you want to vomit. This can happen for many reasons including your illness, medicines, food, or feeling anxious.
  • pain - Pain can be physical or emotional and how it is experienced is different for everyone. It is very common in advanced serious illness. But there are ways to manage pain and it is important to talk with your care team about this.

Talk to your health professional about any symptoms that you are experiencing. They also need to know if any of your symptoms get worse or if they improve. This may affect your medications or other therapies.

A symptom diary can be used to record any symptoms you have had. This could include when they occurred and what was done.

Your carer can help you to record and report your symptoms to health professionals. Let your carer know what you are feeling. They can work with health professionals to help you.

Always contact your health care team if you are unable to control any of your symptoms. You do not have to suffer and suffering is not a part of dying.

Pain is one of the symptoms that might concern you the most. There are ways to reduce the level of pain. Find out more about Pain in this section.


Last updated 30 March 2021