• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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How to cope with cancer diagnosis, by expert

Soaring costs, naira scarcity frustrate cancer patients

Uchenna Okoro, a consultant clinical and radiation oncologist at Evercare Hospital Lekki, has called for increased use of well-thought coping strategies to help patients achieve improved treatment outcomes.

Okoro made the call against the background of the fact that the diagnosis of cancer is one of the most traumatising discussions patients have to go through. Medical experts say that the emotional and psychological burden of the disease is often so much for patients to handle that it in some cases results in depression.

But according to Okoro, the most important step for a patient diagnosed with cancer is to understand the diagnosis and disease process.

He believed that discussions with the managing physician should provide information on the type of cancer, the location of cancer, the stage of the disease, and whether the disease is treatable or not.

It should give insight into treatment options, side effects, cost of treatment, what happens if the patient declines treatment, and the life changes to expect during and after treatment.

“Having open-minded conversations with your managing physician is of immense benefit as it creates the opportunity for both patient and physician to be on the same page as regards treatment expectations, which makes tracking of treatment progress easier.

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“Patients are also encouraged to join support groups which could be institution based or in form of a non-profit organisation. These groups usually have members that have undergone treatment for similar illnesses and coping strategies are discussed and made available to members,” he said.

He believed that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for any patient being managed for cancer, as “this will not only improve your energy level and help you manage the stress and fatigue of cancer and its treatment but will positively impact treatment outcomes.”

He urged patients to maintain a healthy diet; get enough rest and exercise as those who can exercise during treatment not only deal better with side effects but also may live longer.

Okoro said lifestyle changes, including work schedule interruptions, should be expected while on treatment. Also, physical activities that form part of daily routine will need to be adjusted as disease or treatment conditions may not allow a patient to carry out such tasks.

“It’s important for patients to allow family or friends and in some cases where accessible professional caregivers to assist patients to deal with some of these demands. It is also important to consider how your diagnosis will impact your finances. A plan for funding cancer treatment is important and such plans must also consider life after treatment,” he said.

This is a worrisome subject in developing countries where health insurance coverage is still low and even where present may not include cancer care. Most patients will have to fund cancer care out of pocket even when such treatments are usually expensive.

Hence, patients are urged to be open with their loved ones; share their thoughts and feelings with them, and seek spiritual support. Cancer affects all your relationships, Okoro said. But communication can help lower the anxiety and fear that cancer can cause.

“Always keep a positive mindset, feel free to discuss treatment-related concerns or fears with your physician, and read books, and journals related to cancer to get a better understanding of the condition,” he urged.