Chapter 3: Symptoms and health concerns
Malignant wounds – What can help
What the healthcare provider can do
The healthcare provider may suggest surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy to treat the wound. These treatment options depend on things such as the person’s current health, availability of treatments near the person, and the condition and location of the wound. Below are some of the things the healthcare provider may recommend. Click below to see some of the things the healthcare provider may recommend.
They may prescribe a pain medication that works around the clock. If there is pain only when the dressing is changed, they may suggest the following:
- Take pain medication before the dressing change.
- Have fewer dressing changes if the healthcare provider advises this is okay.
- Use special wound dressings that cause less pain when removed.
- Encourage distraction while the dressing change is occurring, such as watching TV or listening to music.
Blood thinners such as aspirin, warfarin, or heparin increase the risk of bleeding. If bleeding persists, the healthcare provider may consider stopping the blood thinners. They will also suggest soaking the dressing before careful removal and using special wound dressings that don’t stick or that help with blood clots.
*If you notice a lot of bleeding, apply pressure to the wound for 10–15 minutes and contact the healthcare provider.
They may use special dressings to absorb drainage and reduce how often the dressing needs to be changed. They may also use skin barrier creams, sprays, and wipes for the surrounding skin.
They may suggest special dressings like those containing charcoal or antifungal medication. They may also suggest cleaning the wound by showering or using saline solution.
The wound can be a constant visual reminder of the illness and can be emotionally upsetting. It can also affect body image and quality of life. The healthcare provider may do the following:
- Connect the person with a social worker, counsellor, or spiritual care provider who can provide emotional support and other practical suggestions.
- Refer you to additional help in the home.
- Prescribe medications that can help with anxiety and depression.
- Try placing dry kitty litter under the bed and changing it every few days. However, pay extra attention if you own a cat as they may begin to use it.
- Place dirty dressings in a plastic bag and remove them from the home immediately.
- Change dirty linens or clothing promptly will also help.
- Some people use aromatherapy in their home such as 5–6 drops of oil (vanilla, peppermint, citronella, lavender, or lemongrass) on a gauze swab and changing it 3–4 times a day.
This is likely very difficult for you and for them. To be supportive, avoid making faces or overreacting when you are with the person. If a healthcare provider is there to do a dressing change, you might choose to be in another area of the house.
Relaxation techniques can sometimes help the person if they are feeling anxious. Talk to a healthcare provider who can suggest or approve some strategies. *See Complementary therapies and relaxation strategies in Helpful resources below.
What families can do
Call their healthcare provider if you notice any of the
- Signs of possible infection, such as increased pain,
odour, changes in drainage or drainage colour, swelling, redness and warmth in
the skin around the wound, or fever.
- Pain medication is not working.
- Increased bleeding from the wound or during dressing changes.