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Only Treatment is Not Enough...

Sakal times
17 October 2011
By , Shalaka Nalawade

For breast cancer patients, counselling is an important step in coming to terms with the disease and healing, writes
What will I do? I’m about to die, doctor...” “How on earth did this happen to me? I have never done anything wrong in my life..” These are not the dialogues from any Bollywood movie, but a glimpse into the emotions of patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Apart from the treatment, counselling these patients, plays a vital part in the treatment.

Only Treatment is Not Enough
“We have to assure the patient that breast cancer is quite common. About 25 per cent women in India suffer from it. It is hard to explain to the patient that she can resume normal life again,” says Dr Sandeep Roy. He adds that the treatment for cancer starts at the screening which leads to diagnosis and then counselling to actual treatment through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or other methods. “Counselling plays a major role as a lot of patients have many misconceptions about cancer. Their incomplete knowledge about the disease, their lack of acceptance of the diagnosis and their anxiety after hearing about the positive results needs to be addressed through counselling,” informs Dr Shekhar Kulkarni.

Being aware of the diagnosis and the treatment that will follow makes the patient less prone to stress. “What is important is awareness about the disease. Many people are reluctant to accept the fact that they are diagnosed positive for cancer, that’s when counselling come handy,” informs Dr Roy. “I would say that breast cancer is a better disease to have than diabetes, but the patients diagnosed with diabetes do not start crying and lose hope of normal life, they continue like nothing happened, whereas the patients diagnosed with breast cancer assume they are going to die. Telling them that is this certainly not the case makes counselling necessary,” adds Dr Kulkarni.

Counselling needs to be done at various stages, firstly after diagnosis, “We have to tell them about the disease in a very scientific manner. If they break down, we let them cry as they start feeling lighter and open up to treatment,” says Dr Kulkarni. The next counselling comes when a patient has to undergo mastectomy. Dr Roy says, “A lot of high risk patients, who are not diagnosed with breast cancer have to undergo sub-cutaneous mastectomy — removal of cancer affected breasts along with oophorectomy — removal of ovaries as a part of preventive measures.”

Many patients feel that they might lose their femininity once they undergo mastectomy, which is not true. Corrective surgery and breast implants can help these patients a lot. “Most of the times, the patient support group, made up of survivors of cancer, act as role models for these patients. The fact that they are not going to die if diagnosed with cancer in early stages gives these women a new lease of life and they open up to share their trauma with the survivors. This type of counselling makes a lot of difference,” adds Dr Kulkarni.

“The hardest part is letting the relatives know about it and then receiving support from family. If that is resolved then counselling the patient is relatively easier,”says Dr Roy. An important message this is, especially during the ongoing breast cancer awareness month...

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