Hope for cancer patients as supportive care needs are addressed
The number of cancer patients getting structured supportive care in India is dismally low
Being diagnosed with cancer can be very stressful and traumatising for an individual. Apart from the uncertainty that the disease brings, patients also deal with emotional and psychological challenges like stress, anxiety and depression, which lower their quality of life. Yet, medical professionals in India either shy away from or are uncomfortable with discussing issues related to softer aspects of supportive care. This was said by oncologists of Prameya Health, an institution specializing in supportive care for patients suffering from cancer and other diseases.
Said breast cancer surgeon Dr Sandhya Ravi, Founder of Prameya Health: “Due to cultural, religious and spiritual factors, there is generally very good family support for a cancer patient in India. Yet, there is often no separate platform to deliver supportive care in a structured manner in a non-hospital environment. The number of cancer patients getting structured supportive care is dismally low as the main focus of doctors remains on medical treatment of the disease. Even among patients, there is low awareness on getting holistic, multi-dimensional supportive care and its tremendous benefits.”
Added senior medical oncologist Dr PP Bapsy: “Unfulfilled supportive care needs for cancer patients have an adverse impact on their psyche, including depression, anxiety and constant worry about recurrence of disease. They may also face chronic recurring illnesses in addition to psychosomatic ailments. A range of studies have shown that multi-dimensional supportive care programs improve not just treatment outcomes and quality of life, but also survival rates.”
In one such study, 360 patients who participated in the SAHAI FENS supportive care program of Prameya Health were assessed on their Quality of Life Parameters. The results showed that a holistic, multi-dimensional supportive care program has a positive impact on anxiety and depression of participants. This study was presented in the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO), Asia Congress held in Singapore in November 2019.
Said Dr Sandhya Ravi: “Some of the activities commonly recommended as part of supportive care programs include functional aspects of care, lymphedema management, nutritional advice, counselling sessions with psycho-oncologists, relaxation and guided visualisation, meditation, yoga, mudras, art and dance therapy, spiritual group therapy sessions, and grooming, including selection of wigs and prosthesis. All of these are important and each patient may choose something that works for them or they have an interest in.”
Added Dr PP Bapsy: “Being part of a support group where each one helps the other through shared experiences can help cancer patients. These groups provide a conducive, comfortable and safe environment for patients to share their concerns and get credible and scientific advice. Supportive care programs can help cancer patients transform their difficult experience into something positive and create a better life for themselves.”