• Jiji, Kyodo


Some 40% of cancer patients in Japan felt pain during their final month before death, according to estimates by the National Cancer Center.

It also found that some of these patients may not have been given adequate care to mitigate their pain.

The figures, released Saturday, have changed little from a preliminary survey of a limited number of people in 2018, indicating that the situation surrounding terminal care medicine has not improved.

The center sent the latest survey forms in January 2019 to 26,000 relatives of cancer patients who died in 2017. It received valid responses from 12,900 of them. The survey results were adjusted to eliminate bias in terms of the type of facilities where patients stayed and prefectures where they lived in order to obtain nationwide figures.

According to the survey, 40.4% of patients felt pain during the month before their death. Relatives of 21% of patients who had pain in their final week attributed the pain to insufficient treatment from doctors while 9% said that frequency and the duration of periods of medical care were insufficient.

While 71.1% of respondents said they were happy with the medical treatment given to patients, physical pain was cited by 47.2% and psychological pain by 42.3%. In 36.5% of all surveyed cases, patients talked with doctors about where they would spend their final days of life.

Places where patients felt less pain were led by palliative care facilities. Nursing care facilities came in second, followed by homes, and hospitals came last.

Similar surveys were conducted with 5,003 kin of deceased heart disease patients and 1,043 relatives of deceased cerebrovascular disease patients. The proportion of patients who experienced pain stood at 25.3% and 22%, respectively.

Noting that it is possible to reduce the number of patients feeling pain, Masashi Kato, head of the National Cancer Center’s cancer treatment assistance department, said further measures are necessary.

“I believe (the survey results) show the real situation. Measures taken for easing pain are not sufficient, and I expect more to be done,” he said.

The survey also revealed the heavy burden felt by relatives of the terminally ill patients. A total of 40.9% felt a burden to provide care. After patients died, 30.1% felt loss and grief for a long period of time, and 19. 4% developed depression.

The center released the results of a smaller-scale survey in 2018. The latest survey was conducted on a larger scale for nationwide estimates.

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