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Table 2 Relationship between symptom intensity and unbearability for symptoms in the domain of: medical signs and symptoms (n = 60)

From: Symptoms, unbearability and the nature of suffering in terminal cancer patients dying at home: a prospective primary care study

  Symptom present % *(n) Symptom high intensity % *(n) High intensity and unbearable % *(n) Percentage unbearable when high intensity % Symptom low intensity % *(n) Low intensity and unbearable %(n) Percentage unbearable when low intensity % Symptom unbearable % *(n)
Domain I: Medical symptoms         
Weakness 93 (56) 51 (31) 43 (26) 84 42 (25) 14 (8) 32 57 (34)
Tiredness 87 (52) 48 (29) 28 (17) 59 39 (23) 7 (4) 17 35 (21)
General discomfort 80 (48) 27 (16) 17 (10) 63 53 (32) 20 (12) 38 37 (22)
Changed appearance 78 (47) 40 (24) 20 (12) 50 38 (23) 2 (1) 4 22 (13)
Pain 72 (43) 20 (12) 18 (11) 92 52 (31) 7 (4) 13 25 (15)
Loss of appetite 62 (37) 24 (14) 10 (6) 43 38 (23) 15 (9) 39 25 (15)
Shortness of breath 59 (35) 17 (10) 14 (8) 80 42 (25) 5 (3) 12 19 (11)
Impaired co-ordination 57 (34) 17 (10) 13 (8) 80 40 (24) 5 (3) 13 18 (11)
Not sleeping well 47 (28) 12 (7) 10 (6) 86 35 (21) 15 (9) 43 25 (15)
Thirst 45 (27) 18 (11) 10 (6) 55 27 (16) 2 (1) 6 12 (7)
Feeling tensed 44 (26) 12 (7) 10 (6) 86 32 (19) 2 (1) 5 12 (7)
Memory loss 43 (26) 12 (7) 7 (4) 57 32 (19) 8 (5) 26 15 (9)
Impaired sight 42 (25) 5 (3) 3 (2) 67 37 (22) 4 (2) 9 7 (4)
Impaired mental clarity 42 (25) 10 (6) 5 (3) 50 32 (19) 7 (4) 21 12 (7)
Loss of concentration 40 (24) 13 (8) 12 (7) 88 27 (16) 5 (3) 19 17 (10)
Coughing 38 (23) 2 (1) 2 (1) 100 36 (22) 3 (2) 9 5 (3)
Swallow food impaired 35 (21) 7 (4) 7 (4) 100 28 (17) 5 (3) 18 12 (7)
Smelling unpleasant 35 (21) 8 (5) 8 (5) 100 27 (16) 3 (3) 19 13 (8)
Feeling depressed 34 (20) 3 (2) 2 (1) 50 31 (18) 10 (6) 33 12 (7)
Impaired hearing 33 (20) 8 (5) 7 (4) 80 25 (15) 8 (4) 27 13 (8)
Incomprehensible speech 32 (19) 14 (8) 12 (7) 88 18 (11) 3 (2) 18 15 (9)
Itch 32 (19) 8 (5) 5 (3) 60 24 (14) 2 (1) 7 7 (4)
Constipation 30 (18) 8 (5) 8 (5) 100 22 (13) 4 (2) 15 12 (7)
Nausea 28 (17) 12 (7) 8 (5) 71 16 (10) 5 (3) 30 13 (8)
Dizziness 27 (16) 5 (3) 5 (3) 100 22 (13) 7 (4) 31 12 (7)
Vomiting 27 (16) 9 (5) 7 (4) 80 18 (11) 13 (8) 73 20 (12)
Feeling anxious 27 (16) 5 (3) 3 (2) 67 22 (13) 4 (2) 15 7 (4)
Swallowing fluid impaired 23 (14) 5 (3) 5 (3) 100 18 (11) 2 (1) 9 7 (4)
Hiccups 22 (13) 7 (4) 5 (3) 75 15 (9) 5 (3) 33 10 (6)
Intestinal cramps 22 (13) 5 (3) 3 (2) 67 17 (10) 5 (3) 30 8 (5)
Diarrhea 20 (12) 3 (2) 3 (2) 100 17 (10) 4 (2) 20 7 (4)
Incontinence of urine 10 (6) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 10 (6) 0 (0) 0 0 (0)
Incontinence of feces 8 (5) 2 (1) 2 (1) 100 6 (4) 5 (3) 75 7 (4)
Pressure ulcers 8 (5) 2 (1) 2 (1) 100 6 (4) 1 (1) 25 3 (2)
Impaired comprehension of speech 7 (4) 2 (1) 2 (1) 100 5 (3) 1 (1) 33 3 (2)
Paralyzed limbs 5 (3) 2 (1) 2 (1) 100 3 (2) 0 (0) 0 2 (1)
Skin metastasis 3 (2) 3 (2) 2 (1) 50 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 2 (1)
  1. Rounded percentages and absolute numbers; between 0 to 1 missing observations per symptom.
  2. Scoring: 1-not at all; 2-slightly; 3-moderately; 4-seriously; 5-very seriously, hardly can be worse.
  3. Symptom present: intensity scores 2–5.
  4. Low intensity: scores 1–3; High intensity: scores 4–5; Bearable suffering: scores 1–3; Unbearable suffering: scores 4–5.
  5. *: percentage of interviewed patients followed up until death.
  6. n: number of patients.