Impaired thinking and changes in awareness can affect people with advanced cancer in varying degrees. These symptoms known as confusion and delirium, may range from occasional forgetfulness to, in extreme cases, dramatic changes in personality and a loss of any sense of reality.
Confusion can come on suddenly or gradually, it can come and go or be more permanent. and can have an impact on your activity level and alertness.
The type of cancer itself (eg. a brain tumour) may cause the confusion. It can be caused by medications, dehydration, changes in the body’s chemical balance, infection or reduced amounts of oxygen getting to the brain.
While confusion and delirium is common in the final days of life, it is particularly distressing when your faculties are otherwise in order and you are aware of your feeling of confusion.
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Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.
Last updated 30 August 2015