Dr Jamal Dixon is an internal medicine physician based out of Atlanta, Ga. He is a cancer survivor. After being diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer in his 3rd year of residency, he witnessed different things from a patient’s perspective.
Diagnosis and treatment
I had GI tract stomach cancer. It includes all cancers in your digestive tract organs such as the stomach, large and small intestine, pancreas, colon, liver, rectum, anus, and biliary system. Doctors decided to go for surgery and then chemotherapy. My first surgery lasted for nine hours. My stomach was 60 percent removed. After that they removed my transverse colon because it had grown so large that it was creating problems. After removing the colon, the doctor combined the rest of the part. After that my oral chemotherapy started. The first medicine did not suit me then doctors changed my medicine. It continued for four weeks after that there was a gap of three weeks. Every three months, a city scan was done for me to check if everything is alright.
Caregivers should be given equal importance
Cancer impacts people all over the world. A lot of people have to deal with it as a patient or as a caregiver. I was diagnosed with cancer during my final year of residency. It was very difficult to deal with it from a patient’s perspective. During the treatment, I learned dynamics between cancer patient and caregiver. I learned how difficult it is for a caregiver to deal with the trauma all of the sudden. Everyone is concerned about the cancer patient that makes sense but taking care of the physical and emotional wellbeing of the caregiver is also equally important. It is shocking news for them as well and they are not an expert in dealing and managing with the patients. Taking care of patients and the trauma of diagnosis can make situations difficult for them.
More information should be given to patients
As a patient, I realised that a patient is not given all the information about his diagnosis and treatment. He must know different types of treatment available and best treatment for him. Good communication between patients, family caregivers, and the health care team is very important in cancer care. Patients with cancer have special communication needs. Some patients and families want a lot of information and choose to make decisions about care. Communication is important at different points during cancer care. End-of life discussions with the health care team may lead to fewer procedures and better quality of life.
More awareness is required
The incidence of cancer is increasing rapidly. Therefore, it is important to step up cancer literacy and knowledge amongst the population. This will lead to early detection which is important in the management and treatment of cancer and also prevention by making necessary changes in lifestyle. Early detection is essential in its management and treatment. Due to ignorance, fear, and social stigma many cases are diagnosed at later stages which requires surgery and extensive treatment. If detected early, then in most cases there will be less aggressive treatment and better chances of recovery. Cancer awareness is the key to early detection and better health-seeking behaviour. Cancer is quite common in both developing as well as developed countries, but awareness is yet poor among the general population. Poor awareness may lead to poor uptake of screening modalities and delay in diagnosis.
Screening is an important preventive measure in cancer control. Even though the national programme has a screening component, it is yet to take root in most parts of the world. At present, most of the screening tests are available at higher centres only. The available screening methods to the population are also not adequately utilised. Efforts should be made to learn why such gaps occur in service delivery and utilisation, and for that, it is pertinent to understand the attitude of people towards screening practices.