Cancer and the society
There has been a drastic increase in the incidence of cancer cases these days and we see almost every other family inflicted with this disease When I started my career as an oncologist close to 20 years back, I found that those diagnosed with cancer were written off even by their doctors since it was a terminal disease
There has been a drastic increase in the incidence of cancer cases these days and we see almost every other family inflicted with this disease. When I started my career as an oncologist close to 20 years back, I found that those diagnosed with cancer were written off even by their doctors since it was a terminal disease.
Over the years, advancements in medicine and technology have revolutionided the field of oncology and survival chances of patients have improved drastically. But it is annoying to see that there has not been an iota of change in the mindset of the people.
The moment a patient is diagnosed with cancer unsolicited advice pours in from friends and relatives, some of them even go to an extent to tell them that they are not going to live longer or even if you get treated it might come back at any point of time, which pushes the patients towards depression till there is hardly any fight left in him.
Patients become an information kiosk, where they are put in limelight in public or private and posed questions like, how did you come to know, what stage, which side breast etc. etc. Neighbours peep from the corner of their doors and gossip. Condolence messages flood from everywhere, killing the patient alive. More than the diagnosis it is the words that kill them.
There is another set of relatives who go one step forward that it’s because of their sins committed in this or previous births, leaving the patients devastated and cursing their lives.
There is ignorance and then there are deliberate attempts to misinform about radiation and side effects. Patients are told they will be given electrical shocks during radiation leaving them apprehensive. Even in this age of information the first time I meet a patient I have to spend considerable time in debunking these myths. We accept there are side effects and there is mortality like any other disease.
There is no guarantee for any of our lives and anything can happen anytime. God knows maybe we might go through the same difficult times. Then why do we demoralize the spirits of these patients and their families?
Recently one of my patient’s son a teenager tells me that his friends mother said that his mother is going to die, and he also will suffer from cancer in future. How on earth can anyone be so rude to kids?
If you really want to help a cancer patient, share their work at home or office. Offer them a pickup or drop to the hospitals, bring a healthy homemade food or just remind them the happy moments you have with them. Please just don’t become the routine 4 o’clock visitors to the hospital and add to their woes.
They don’t need our sympathy. They simply need a hand to hold, an ear to listen and a heart to understand their woes with compassion. On this world cancer day lets pledge not to pity or dissocialise them, instead be empathetic and help them recover fast by all means.
( The writer is a HOD & Sr. Consultant Radiation Oncologist, and also author of a book ‘25 Hope Streets’ )
By Dr Suneetha Mulinti