well aware of the adverse effects that stress
can have on their patients' immune systems. A
patient whose immunity is compromised is at greater
risk of his body not being able to fight newly-formed
cancer cells, thus reducing his chances of surviving
the cancer. Because of this, every effort must
be made to help reduce the stress for both the
patient and his family.
Recent research in both the
West and East offer considerable proof that complementary
therapies such as meditation and simple breathing
exercises can help victims of the modern cancer
'epidemic' find calmness and reduce their cancer-related
Oncologists too suffer from
the stress of constantly being with their patients
who are not doing well. An oncologist has to break
bad news to his patients at least 20,000 times
in his life, and that's a very conservative estimate
by Indian standards. In Indian hospitals where
there is always a high patient load, an oncologist
with a service span of 25 years is likely to deliver
bad news to a patient 1,00,000 times in his career.
|A Ganga Prem Hospice
patient facing depression
a cancer surgeon working at a busy cancer
centre in Delhi, Ganga Prem Hospice Medical
Director Dr AK Dewan sees around 6,000 patients
in a year in his Out Patient Department (OPD)
alone. Telling patients for the first time
that they have cancer, revealing that the
cancer has recurred, that the chemotherapy
has not worked, or that their cancer is now
in the last stages, are very difficult situations
for an oncologist to handle.
He has to be ready for different
types of reactions from both the patient and his
family. Some patients go into denial, some leave
the outcome to destiny, some question why life
has singled them out to suffer cancer, while a
few show the spirit to fight their disease. Dr
Dewan has personally seen that those patients
who refuse to accept that they have cancer and
who want to fight it generally do better than
those who leave their condition to fate.
When a young child dies or
when the sole earning member of the family has
cancer, it becomes emotionally draining for the
doctor as well as for the patient and his family.
If an avoidable complication (in hindsight) has
occurred with a patient, there is a feeling of
great sorrow in the doctor. A complex cancer surgery
can also raise anxiety levels in the surgeon.
Many times, an oncologist carries the stress of
life at work to his home. Snapping at family members
is not unusual. Not being able to enjoy meals,
or disturbed sleep are also commonplace occurrences
in an oncologist's life.
it is all in a day's work, it is still difficult
for doctors, especially oncologists, to keep themselves
from being too involved in their patients' lives.
In palliative care services, the staff and volunteers
involved in caring for advanced cancer patients
also frequently experience high levels of stress
during their routine work.
Prem Hospice hopes to introduce simple meditation
techniques and breathing exercises to help
lower the level of stress not only in patients
and their families but also to help members
of the Hospice team handle the stress that
inevitably comes from serving an ever growing
number of cancer patients seeking the Hospice's
Ganga Prem Hospice has
a Bereavement Support Programme.
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