The relationship between doctors and their patients has received philosophical and spiritual attention since the time of Hippocrates and still remains a keystone of care. But, unfortunately over the years, this special relationship has undergone a drastic transition. The onus for this actually lies on both the parties. On one hand, increasing number of litigations and the irrational use of social media has made the doctor fraternity more cautious while on the other, many patients claim that doctors treat them as consumers and the healing touch and warmth has gone.
Bobby Fischer once said “Nothing is so healing as the human touch”. As a doctor, it’s very important to counsel & interact with patients, so that their fears regarding the disease can be alleviated.
As a cancer surgeon, I feel that a healing touch is as important as a good surgical hand. Every doctor should make a sincere effort to strike a healthy relationship with their patients.
May the force be with you!!
(This was a card I recently received from one of may patient’s, whom I had treated for cancer)
Breast cancer treatment is a long drawn battle for the patient and her family and it is always a joyous moment when they finish their breast cancer treatment.
This special day when they finish their treatment, marks an important phase, when they transition from being a patient to a cancer conqueror/ survivor. In India, despite so many myths surrounding cancer treatment, it is good to see some ladies determined to fight the disease despite all odds. Hats off to their fighting spirit!!
Family has a huge role to play in supporting a breast cancer patient during her treatment and the most important member is the patient’s husband. My views regarding the role of a Breast Cancer Husband were recently highlighted in Health Spectrum Magazine.
As a Breast Cancer surgeon, I have seen a dramatic shift (towards good) in the family’s attitude towards Breast Cancer. In my initial years of training/ practice, I had encountered patients, who were deserted by their husbands after the diagnosis.
Nowadays, the scenario is quite different. I see husbands accompanying their wives for all their hospital visits and chemotherapy sessions. This is definitely helping patients cope with their disease in a better manner and I am hoping this trend continues in the future.
Western statistics reveal that nearly seven out of ten marriages touched by breast cancer do not survive and ultimately lead to divorce. With the incidence of breast cancer increasing in young Indian women, this problem will soon be evident here as well. In fact, during my tenure in Bangalore, I did come across a few patients who were deserted by their families after their diagnosis of Breast Cancer.
Although there is no magic formula for a couple to weather this difficult period, but some of these points can help husbands support their wives during their Breast Cancer treatment.
- Stand by her during the treatment & tell her that you ‘love’ her
In a marriage or any intimate relationship, silence is not golden. The strong silent type need not apply for the position of husband, lover, best friend, confidante and supporter of a woman with breast cancer. Your bride, your wife, needs and wants to hear from you. Actions may speak louder than words, and you may take all the right actions, but speaking words brings comfort, reassurance and knowledge of your inner feelings. She cannot read your mind. Being there for her is more than physical or economic security. Words have meaning. And the three most important words in the English language at this time, at this moment, when together you are facing her mortality, are: “I love you.”
- Involve her in the decision making
It is not easy for a lady to deal with the diagnosis of breast cancer. Often it has been seen in India that husbands and family members make clinical and personal decisions on their behalf. Although these ladies appreciate some of the decisions but they would love to be part of others, which involve their future.
A simple example is deciding between a mastectomy & breast conservation surgery. Family members err towards the side of mastectomy but in reality a lot of young patients actually want breast conservation surgery. It always helps to consult them in private and then take a collective decision.
- Go to Her Appointments
It is not what you do when you accompany her to treatment, but rather the act itself that speaks volumes to her. It also gives you some sense of empowerment. You are more than a helpless spectator cursing the damned disease. You have joined the battle.
- Sometimes humor helps
Funny, it does. There’s even a study to prove it, by psychologist Sharon Manne of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Couples who laughed at cancer coped better with the stress of treatment. We know that the act of laughing is itself healing. It makes us feel better and helps us get better.
- Continue to enjoy as a couple – she is NOT invalid
Treatment can be grueling and tiring, but you both need to live your life as fully as possible. Continue to enjoy what you enjoy individually and as a couple, particularly the latter. Don’t let cancer put an end to your personal and social life.
If you follow these simple steps, you can also become a Proud Husband of a Breast Cancer Survivor
Consultant, Breast Oncosurgeon
W Pratiksha Hospital
In my previous posts, I have highlighted the misery of poor Indian breast cancer patients who test positive for HER 2 neu. These cancers are usually aggressive and need to be treated with targeted agents like Herceptin. The problem is that each dose of Herceptin costs close to 50-60 thousand rupees in our country and this drug is not available in any government medical college.
Even with the introduction of bio-similars like CANMab, the cost of treatment remained to the tune to 40-45 thousand rupees per dose. I know many families, who sold their houses & jewelry to fund for their loved one’s Herceptin treatment. One such patient was Mrs. Laxmi (name changed), who had Stage III HER-2-neu positive breast cancer. She hailed from an average middle class family and the news of diagnosis of breast cancer was a huge shock for her. To add to her woes, she got to know that she would require close to 6 lakh rupees to fund for her Herceptin treatment. After a lot of deliberation with the family, she decided to fund her treatment by selling her wedding jewelry. Fortunately, things worked out well for her and she is still alive & healthy, 5 years after her cancer diagnosis. Other patients are not so lucky, as they do not possess such reserve money to fund for their HER treatment.
The Indian government’s new AMRIT scheme (Affordable Medicine & Reliable Implants for Treatment), might turn out to be a huge boon for these breast cancer patients. This scheme aims to bring down the cost of essential cancer medicines by 50-60%. The first AMRIT center was inaugurated recently at AIIMS and soon other centers would be started all across the country. Although the list of drugs which will be made available at these centers has not been released, I am hoping that Herceptin would be one of them. This would really help us in treating HER 2 positive patients, thereby leading to increased survival rates.
If this scheme is properly implemented, it will truly turn out to be an “AMRIT” for Indian cancer patients.
During my training in America, doctors there used to ask me “Why doesn’t India have a Breast Cancer Screening Program?”
Well today, I can proudly say that we are working towards it. You always have to take small steps to fulfill big dreams and that is what we did yesterday by launching the W Pratiksha Hospital Cancer Awareness Drive.
I was happy to see the media supporting the project and giving it the importance it deserves.
We are going to having regular camps in the surrounding villages for the next six months and anyone who would like to volunteer is most welcome.
It was heartening to see one of my treated patients (a breast cancer conqueror) being felicitated during the event. She shared her thoughts with the media as well and told them about the importance of early detection and management.