Home » Breast Cancer » Is Cancer Diagnosis a Social Death Sentence in India?

Is Cancer Diagnosis a Social Death Sentence in India?

Being a cancer surgeon it really hurts me when I see patients suffering from cancer but it hurts me even more, when the people around them desert them during their time of need. Instead of only fighting the cancer growing within them, they also end up fighting the “social cancer”.

Consider these scenarios:

  • Being a breast surgeon, I have seen many breast cancer patients having marital problems after being diagnosed with cancer. Their husbands leave them because of financial reasons and due to their physical appearance after cancer treatment.
  • One patient was made a social outcast in her own home and was not allowed to sleep and eat with her children and other family members because they thought that cancer was a communicable disease.
  • I know of a distant relative, who was diagnosed with leukemia when he was very young. He was completely cured with chemotherapy but then had a tough time finding a suitable match. Every time he revealed his story to the girl’s family, they rejected him immediately. One family even got all his reports verified from multiple experts, who were of the opinion that the cancer was treated, but still the family rejected him. Although he was able to win the battle against cancer but could not fight the social cancer and landed up with depression.

These problems arise because of the lack of awareness about cancer in our country. With the incidence of communicable diseases reducing in our country, cancer is going to become the next epidemic. If the same social stigma continues to haunt these patients, their lives would become miserable.

Some months back I saw a matrimonial column specifically for patients with AIDS (for which no cure is present). If the society can accept AIDS, then why not have a separate matrimonial column for cancer survivors, a disease which is curable, if diagnosed early.

A cancer patient does not need sympathy but needs support, not only from the immediate family members but also the society. Let us help create awareness about cancer and also educate relatives of cancer survivors about their disease and their needs.

Cancer awareness is the only chemotherapy against this social stigma.

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20 thoughts on “Is Cancer Diagnosis a Social Death Sentence in India?

  1. Absolutely Dr Rohan what you say is extremely true and very sensitive on your part………am sure we as doctors can play a definite role in the creation of awareness in society……kudos to you for is post…….

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  3. This is a great insight… and it applies outside of India too. Many of the people I know who’ve gone through cancer treatment have found themselves deserted by their partner, removed from their work and isolated in their community. As you rightly say, cancer is the new epidemic and attitudes towards anyone who is living through it urgently need to change.

    • I agree Tracy…this is becoming a global problem and as I mentioned awareness is the only chemotherapy against this social cancer. Please share this with as many people as you can to create more awareness.

  4. yes rohan…. cancer patients do face a social stigma…. and the root cause is that people are taught to trade up in life always. Social and financial setbacks are “problems”. This leads to stigmatising cancer survivors evenwhen they know that the disease is non infectious. It ‘s a shame. Apart from the usual ICE, people should be encouraged to be human. Schools are the targets here. Then maybe, atleast 20 years down the line, cancer survivors will live a dignified life?

  5. This was the environment in the United States about 40 years ago. The American Cancer Society changed the attitude people had about cancer in this country. Instead of a terminal disease, many cancers are now treatable, adding many quality years to the patient’s life. It sounds like the right time for the medical community in India to follow the framework of the ACS and begin the task of changing hearts and minds of the Indian people.
    http://www.cancer.org

  6. Dear Sir, Thanks for raising such relavent question. In my private practice of 22 years, i have yet to get a patient who was deserted from family. A doctor need to take time and talk to patient, her husband and immediate close family during consultation. I find great opportunity while patient is admitted for and after surgery. Fortunately we in India has liberty to keep her admitted till she is willing to go home. 3 days/5 days/7 days!! So her close relative do visit her and such questions (isolation, kids can go near her, her thing need to keep separate etc.) do arise. I confidently convey “No need” and allow freedom to mix and be with family. I specifically mention if there is risk to near ones, I myself would keep distance…wont I?? The fact that i touch her, help her and be close to her, its safe!! Make extra effort and assure safety. I am sure very poor may try to escape from responsibility and I too have heard horror stories. Let hope it is less and less seen and heard.
    1 second ago• Delete

  7. Lovely blog Rohan.I am proud of you. As a cancer surgeon and someone who had to fight this all along , I can not agree more.The mission is on and we will surely overcome…
    God bless you !!
    Chintamani

    • Thank you sir…it is your training, which I am putting to practice these days. With teachers like you leading the fight against cancer, we are definitely on the road to success..

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  10. i m a breast cancar patient from India.i m 35 yrs old.so much loved nd cared by d family.specially a very caring husband.have seen so many cancer patient with caring family.so if some people hurt cancar patient in family,its mindset of particular individual.ITS NOT INDIAN CULTURE.we have beautiful caring,loving and family oriented culture.

    • Dear Sarika,

      Thank you for your comment. It is glad to know that you have a very supportive family but that it is not the case with everyone. I see breast cancer patients everyday and not everyone is as lucky as you.
      I only wish that with more awareness the scenario changes for the good.

      • Hi Dr. Rohan. It’s nice to see for a change that some doctor do feel the need to help their patients in bettering their social life. I wish you achieve success in what you have started. I have been helping cancer patients for a while. Feels nice when i bring a smile on their face. They deserve more than people support. keep up the good work Doc.

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