No psycho-oncologists at Kidwai

No psycho-oncologists at Kidwai

If private hospitals have realised the importance of appointing psycho-oncologists to ensure the overall well-being of cancer patients, the government-run Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology does not appear to have caught up with the idea as yet. 

With just one clinical psychologist appointed to see patients on a ‘referral basis’, the hospital lags behind in addressing the psychological issues of cancer patients. Specialists at the institute, which sees over 100 new cases a day, believe that oncologists themselves can offer counselling to patients. Studies conducted across the world have revealed that at least 40 per cent cancer patients are at a high risk of psychological depression. Dr Brindha Sitaram, Director, Centre of Psycho-oncology for Education and Research and consultant at HCG in Bangalore, said that for the quality well-being of a patient, it is essential to consider his/her emotional and psychological welfare. Psycho-oncology is an interdisciplinary field concerned both with the effects of cancer on a person’s psychological health as well as the social and behavioural factors that may affect the disease process of cancer and/or the remission of it. “Much like any other specialisation, psycho-oncology plays an important role. The oncologist treating the patient will neither have the time nor expertise to address psychological issues during and after treatment,” she added. 

Dr Sitaram pointed out that there would always be other problems associated with the disease. Marriage break-ups, domestic issues, post-cancer issues of social stigma, body image and looks and loss of vital organs are issues to be addressed by a professional. “There are side effects even when the patient is being treated. For instance, a main side effect of chemotherapy and drugs used in treatment is extreme emotional variations,” she explained. But problems associated with paediatric-oncology would be a step further. “From developmental issues to learning disabilities, the problems would be of complex nature. There are high chances of attention issues, physical disabilities leading to depression, self-esteem issues, memory problems and improper secondary sexual characteristics development,” Dr Sitaram said. 

The main focus of World Cancer Day 2014, which falls on Tuesday, would be to reduce stigma and dispel myths about cancer, under the tagline ‘Debunk the myths’. Dr Sitaram opined that psycho-oncologists played a key role in carrying out those objectives and helped bring down dropout rates at the time of treatment. 

Dr Vinod Kumar, a psycho-oncologist at BGS Hospitals, stressed the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach. “An oncologist with no psychological background is as good as a layman in terms of diagnosing and identifying mental illnesses,” he explained. 

In a typical MBBS course, just two weeks are dedicated to psychiatry. “Screening every cancer patient for psychological illness (as done in most countries) would be a mark of quality medical care,” he said. 

According to a research by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, at least 25 per cent of hospitalised cancer patients are likely to meet the criteria for major depression or adjustment disorder with depressed mood. The prevalence of depression in cancer patients and the types of commonly seen depressive syndromes are now well known. 

Breast cancer cases up by 3.32 pc

While the incidents of cervical cancer have been constantly decreasing by 1.98 per cent in Bangalore since 1982, those of breast cancer have gone up by 3.32 per cent, according to a trend report published by the National Cancer Registry Programme. 

Schemes for cancer patients State: Vajpayee Arogyashree: Members of BPL families in urban and rural areas get up to Rs 1,50,000. Centre:  Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi

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