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Keywords:

  • palliative care;
  • positive mood

For a realistic perspective on what it is like to have cancer and be in the last months of life, it is necessary to also study the positive feelings people may still experience. We set out to describe positive feelings experienced by terminally ill patients. The Depression Adjective Checklist was completed by 96 cancer patients with an estimated life expectancy of less than 3 months. On average patients endorsed 30% (3.6/12) of the positive mood items, and 25% (5.4/22) of the negative mood items. The larger part of terminally ill cancer patients with an estimated life expectancy of less than 3 months reported one or more positive mood states. A positive mood state such as ‘being interested’ was endorsed by more than half (65%) of the patients, other positive feelings were endorsed by a substantial proportion of patients, for example: 38% of patients endorsed feeling ‘jovial’ and 35% reported being ‘optimistic’. Although having incurable cancer often leads to feelings of depression, mood is variable and many patients experience at least some positive feelings.