Don’t ignore them
Personal support from friends and family members is necessary for cancer survivors. Therefore, visitors to the home of a cancer patient could bring flowers to cheer up the mood of a patient. Casual conversations, social discussions about friends, movies, organizing visits to the theater, arranging for new social events, etc. can help drive a conversation with patients. Regular visits to a patient also help them regain their confidence and reintegrate themselves back into society.
Visitors must be good listeners
Every visitor must make a conscious effort to re-establish connections with a patient. This can take the form of listening to the words and narratives from a patient, lending helping hand in house chores, add words of comfort or encouragement to a conversation, promise to organize a trip with friends, watching television shows together, and so on. However, listening must be an active pursuit because this act directly engages with a patient and allows him or her to vent their fears, joys, and hopes for the future.
Don’t be intrusive or judgmental
Words and acts that signal care and comfort should flow freely in conversations with patients in any setting. Right words of encouragement help a patient to cope up with their journey and speed up the recovery process. Friends and visitors must avoid asking medical questions such as tumor markers, chemotherapy, cancer treatment, and other personal questions as it would disrupt the mental peace of a patient.
Don’t minimize their experience
Avoid saying words and sentences that might make them feel sorry for themselves. Try saying “I hope it will be okay or “I’m really sorry,” instead of Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Also, do not refer to any cancer as good cancer; these statements downplay what they are going through actually.
Long chats in the right direction tend to relieve the mental pressures that prey on cancer patients. A family friend, for instance, could narrate stories that relate outstanding recoveries in cancer patients. In this context, cancer patients can also join communities of survivors that share their recovery experiences. A large group of survivors could form a social club that meets regularly; members could read books and periodicals and attend a shared dinner event. These actions boost their self-esteem and create positive energies in their minds and hearts. Interested members of society can choose to join such groups and lead members in a positive direction.
Balanced etiquette and a sensitive approach to dealing with patients and survivors of cancer can make a world of difference among recoverees. Members of the society, friends, relatives, and fellow survivors can co-operate to create wonderful instances for a complete recovery, thereby elevating the quality of life for patients. These examples can form the bedrock of social attitudes that prevail in modern society and become a shining beacon of hope and encouragement for those who have cancer.
Tons of sleep: Good for recovery
Each patient who has undergone treatment for any form of cancer should aim to acquire healthy sleep cycles. This allows the human body to rejuvenate, gain its energies, improve the human mood, control weight, re-develop memory, increase attention cycles, and so on. In line with this, each patient should stick to regular bedtimes at night and rule out any distractions. Therefore, all forms of digital devices should be excluded from the bedroom. Besides, a dark, cool bedroom assists in recovery; this should be a priority for patients recovering from cancer treatment regimens. Further, recovering patients should avoid the consumption of stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.
Good, healthy diet is essential
A healthy diet is necessary to assist recovery in the phase of life that follows cancer treatment. Patients and their family members must try to include different types of green vegetables in the regular diet of a recovering patient. Foods high in fiber content such as beans, whole grains, nuts, lentils, seeds, etc. can boost dietary fiber and must be included. Also, patients must consume healthy portions of probiotic and prebiotic foods to rejuvenate the digestion canal. Medical professionals encourage the consumption of raw garlic, raw or cooked onions, artichokes, legumes, and beans during the recovery phase of a patient.
Regular exercise can speed up recovery
Regular exercise can help the human body recover faster from cancer treatment procedures. Therefore, a patient should consult healthcare professionals and other specialists to develop a fitness routine. Short, moderately intense bursts of physical exercise can pump the heart muscles, thereby improving blood circulation in the human body. In addition, walking and standing should be included in the fitness routine. A patient could network with other recovering patients to form a small community that exercises together regularly. Such a stance helps inculcate the team spirit and encourages each member to participate in physical exercise regimens. Further, recovering patients should avoid sitting still for a longer time.
Quit smoking, quit second-hand smoke
Cancer survivors should make a conscious and ongoing effort to quit smoking and chewing tobacco. Healthcare specialists urge survivors to join an anti-smoking campaign as part of efforts to improve physical and mental health following medical treatment. They should also undertake efforts to avoid smoke-laden bars and restaurants in a bid to avoid second-hand smoke. Further, a non-smoking workplace should ideally help in the recovery process, therefore enabling patients to gain complete recovery from any form of cancer.
Stay connected with friends and family
Social support remains an important element that speeds up recovery in patients that have undergone treatment for cancer. In line with this, survivors should make an effort to communicate with friends and other members of the cancer survivor community. Telephone calls, video calls, social media networks may also assist in such recovery. Such actions enable cancer survivors to regain their mental and psychological strength.
Lower stress – best for recovery
Taking regular walks, listening to music, watching a movie, going out for meals with friends, using various relaxation techniques, etc. can help control the incidence of stress in the minds of recovering patients. Such activities regulate the release of stress hormones and pave the way for a patient to achieve a normal lifestyle. The avoidance of stressful situations also acts as a tonic for the health of a survivor. These acts also boost self-esteem and allow recovering patients to gain sound mental and physical health.
These suggestions can help cancer survivors regain a normal lifestyle and prevent a relapse of health complications. Members of the society and immediate family should support and encourage cancer survivors to gain a healthy lifestyle at the earliest.
A proper recovery can extend the lifespan of patients recovering from various forms of cancer. Health professionals state that cancer patients might find spiritual healing and emotional pleasure from books and journals. This expands the idea that a healthy mind can speed up the recovery process for a cancer patient. In this context, a different genre of books such as mythology, self-help, contemporary, travel, romance, mystery, horror, memoir, art, historical fiction, poetry, science-fiction, classics, business, etc. can help in the recovery process. Similarly, certain forms of light and moderate exercise can aid the recovery process. Yoga remains one of the best kinds of physical activity that allows recovering patients to find solace and come to terms with the medical condition, thus speeding up the recovery process.
USING BOOKS AS A THERAPY
Reading books in this context is also termed as bibliotherapy; such actions can help patients raise their levels of self-awareness, elevate the levels of empathy for others undergoing cancer treatment, reduce the occurrence of negative thoughts, raise levels of hope, and attain certain positive feelings and thoughts. The act of reading books also allows patients to rise above their current condition, which allows for faster recovery from trauma and chronic feelings of illness. Therefore, family members of cancer patients and professional caregivers must encourage the book reading habit in the daily lives of patients undergoing treatment for cancer.
Many types of reading, such as spiritual reading, classic novels, and science fiction, can introduce new thoughts and energies in patients undergoing treatment for cancer. A patient can explore the world of modern literature while setting the mind free from the many worries imposed by cancer treatment. As a family member, you can extend support to this strategy by presenting new sets of books to a recovering patient; this act can strengthen family bonds and improve the mood of patients undergoing recovery. This will help the patients to return to a normal lifestyle.
YOGA – EXCELLENT AS COMPLEMENTARY THERAPY
Yoga, as a physical exercise regimen, helps in improving the physical and mental well-being of cancer patients. Research studies indicate the emphatic benefits of yoga in terms of improved mood states, symptom reduction, stress reduction, and improved quality of life. Further, several meta-analysis and reviews reveal unequivocal benefits for yoga with respect to expectations, benefits, and state of mind in recovering cancer patients. Therefore, patients must be encouraged to join yoga communities and undertake these exercises to reinstate themselves in the mainstream of society.
Yoga teachers can help cancer patients relax and cope with stress, anxiety, and depression through natural treatment methods. Healthcare professionals state that yoga can help to uplift the mood. Some people with cancer say that yoga helps calm their minds so that they can cope better with cancer and its modern forms of treatment. Others say it helps to deal with pain, tiredness, sleep problems, and mental depression.
The cancer journey can be tiring and tedious; minor changes in lifestyle along with inculcating some good habits like reading books and practicing yoga may benefit cancer patients.
What will happen to her body when she is undergoing chemotherapy? What kind of pain will she have to go through? Is she mentally prepared for chemotherapy? Will chemotherapy affect her emotionally? The mind is occupied with ample thoughts and emotions when loved ones undergo chemotherapy, and, fear is the most distressing one.
1. Fear of losing hair:
Loss of hair is among the most common side effects of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy affects all the cells in the body including the healthy ones, especially the ones that grow rapidly. Here are a few more things you must know about hair loss and chemotherapy:
• Not everyone faces an equal amount of hair loss.
• The amount of hair loss, thinning, or falling of hair depends on the chemotherapy dosage and medication.
• Hair loss due to chemotherapy can be sudden or can be a slow process.
• Patients may either lose all the hair or just a part of it.
• It is possible to lose hair from all parts of the body; not just on the head.
2. Fear of chronic side effects:
A lot of people fear that chemotherapy leaves patients with chronic side effects, which might stay with them forever. This is not true for all patients and all kinds of cancers. Different patients experience varying lengths of side effects – some for weeks and months and some for years. The patient’s cancer care specialist might be able to share information about the long-term and short-term side effects and the tenure of side effects. Some side effects can also be treated with medication or therapy.
3. Fear of chemotherapy being physically painful:
Agreed, chemotherapy is painful. However, patients should know that certain pains caused by chemotherapy could be treated by the medication or by alternative therapies. As per cancer care experts, patients should remember that most often the anxiety of what is going to happen can psychologically heighten the perception of pain. The physical pain caused by chemotherapy doesn’t necessarily have to be as painful as considered to be.
4. Side effects of chemotherapy:
Some of the common side effects of chemotherapy are nausea, hair loss, constipation, anemia, weight loss, fertility problems, kidney problems, and so on. Having said this, patients need to know that:
• Every patient has different levels of side effects. Some patients might experience higher side effects than other patients.
• Certain side effects can be prevented with the help of extra care and medication.
• Some side effects have long term impact whereas some lasts for a shorter tenure.
Medical research and innovation have made it possible for some women to avoid chemotherapy. In India, 95% of cancer patients choose to undergo chemotherapy, whereas a large percentage of them can avoid it. Studies show that chemotherapy can be avoided in 70% early stage HER2 positive breast cancer patients.
Prognostic tests like CanAssist Breast helps the patients to know their breast cancer recurrence risk score and possibly avoid chemotherapy. It makes personalized treatment possible while keeping the costs down in low-risk cases.
Chemotherapy is a tough fight, but constantly telling yourself that you CAN make through it, is the best way to deal with the fear of chemotherapy. Remember, “This Too Shall Pass”!
Are you amongst the millions who associate breast cancer with fatality; a disease that is almost impossible to cure and one that definitely involves chemotherapy? Most people believe that cancer treatments and medicines have little benefit. However, a look into new findings and discoveries in the field of oncology is enough to change this common perception about breast cancer.
For years, doctors and oncologists have chosen chemotherapy and radiation as a post-surgical breast cancer treatment. The knowledge, willingness, and proactive approach of the oncologists’ and their involvement with the patient’s treatment play a vital role in breast cancer treatment.
The oncologist and the patient
The oncologist is not only responsible for the diagnosis but is also responsible for providing clarity and knowledge to the patient about their cancer. Most importantly, the oncologist is responsible for deciding and charting out the best treatment course for the patient. Discussions surrounding prognosis often require oncologists to be sensitive, honest, and encouraging.
The treatment to a particular breast cancer patient and the response to treatment is unique to each patient, and the oncologist must share relevant information with the patient. Apart from this, the oncologists are responsible for post-treatment follow-up to assess the effectiveness of the treatment.
Oncologists have to consider many factors when determining a patient’s treatment and one thing that is often difficult to decide is whether a patient should be given chemotherapy or not. Several factors are considered:
- The size of the breast cancer tumor
- The stage of breast cancer
- Whether cancer is only in the breast or has spread to other parts of the body
- The hormone-receptor status of the cancer
- Whether the cancer is triple-negative (estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative, and HER2-negative)
- The rate of cell growth
- If the cancer is likely to come back (recurrence)
- Factors such as the age, menopausal status, and general health of the patient.
According to an assessment by WHO, cancer cases in India will multiply over five times by 2025.
Most patients associate cancer with chemotherapy and one of their first set of questions include queries about chemotherapy: How many sessions of chemotherapy will be required, what are the side-effects, what are the costs involved, will chemotherapy benefit, and what exactly happens during chemotherapy? Among other common questions are: will cancer come back after the surgery? How aggressive is cancer and how fast is it spreading?
A large number of patients and their families aren’t aware of the alternative treatments for breast cancer that are available in the country today. Hence, it is the oncologist’s responsibility to introduce the patients to new treatment options so that the patients consider all the available options.
Oncologists and cancer clinics have to be updated with the latest research and findings in the field of medical research to be able to provide the best treatment to their patients.
Breast cancer trends and cure
In India, breast cancer cases are on the rise. There has been an increase in the number of discoveries, alternative cancer care options, and innovative personalized treatment options for breast cancer patients in India.
In the last five decades, breast cancer treatment has become the model for the development and success of tailored medical treatment.
Therapeutic approaches for breast cancer have changed over the past few decades, and the use of systemic therapy for early and advanced disease tailored to the individual patient holds the promise of delivering treatment to those in need and who could benefit the most. While we’re nowhere near where we should be or could be—in either preventing or treating cancer—science has led to evident progress in treating breast cancers of different kinds.
Advances in hormone therapy for hormone receptor-positive cancer
Some breast cancers are driven by natural hormones, estrogen and progesterone. These are referred to as hormone receptor-positive if they are estrogen receptor-positive (ER positive) and/or progesterone receptor-positive (PR positive). Hormone therapy for breast cancer is only used to treat cancers that are ER or PR positive.
Despite conventional hormone therapy, approximately 20–30% of patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer suffer recurrences and the development of metastatic disease as they experience a biochemical mechanism of resistance. Considerable progress has been made in this area, and newer therapeutic targets have been developed against a number of hormonal resistance mechanisms.
Are all patients with early breast cancer benefiting from chemotherapy? A number of experts and oncologists asked this question. Some delved deeper into it. With this question in mind, global investigators motivated by the development of new prognostic and predictive tests such as OncoStem’s CanAssist Breast. The test focuses on personalizing breast cancer treatment to avoid over treatment and under treatment.
Clinical research is currently evaluating new therapeutic approaches and is identifying specific biological subsets that could determine a patient’s ability to respond to a particular treatment.
Scientific, machine-learning precision – CanAssist Breast
Artificial intelligence and machine learning is an emerging approach to breast cancer. CanAssist Breast is the first such test developed in India, specifically for Indian patients. It determines the tumor’s fingerprint and assesses its aggressiveness. Assessing the tumor biology in detail, the test considers key biomarkers. Based on this combined analysis performed by proteomics based technology, the information is then assessed by a statistical algorithm that provides a score – whether the patient is at low or high risk for breast cancer recurrence.
The importance of medical research
The advent of new drugs targeting specific actionable targets has led to considerable progress in the treatment of breast cancer over the past few years. Yet, some challenges such as resistance to systemic therapy, the high cost of treatments, and limited availability in many parts of the country still remain.
Experts continue to find ways to improve the available technology to provide proper guidance for those living with breast cancer and for those at high risk of developing it.
The author of this blog, Dr.Jayanti Thumsi, has been a practicing breast oncologist for 16 years, has performed 3500 breast surgeries, and 2500 other surgeries. She is an expert in Breast conservation and Breast Reconstruction surgeries. With a keen interest in spreading breast cancer awareness among women, she has conducted 258 awareness programs and has educated 158000 women. She is also the founder trustee of the CREST Foundation working to decrease the burden of breast cancer. Her book, Lump to Laughter, highlights the emotional journey of women going through breast cancer treatment.