The ‘ art ’ of oncology is just as important as the ‘ science ’
Knowing how to provide patients with the right support is critical in cancer care
The best oncologists have good mentors from whom they learn how to nurture relationships with their patients and communicate effectively .
The relationship between a cancer patient and their doctor can be as much part of their treatment as all the drugs and surgery .
Establishing a positive mental attitude in a patient who has just been told their life will probably be cut short is not an easy task , but it is still possible to boost their confidence for the upcoming hard and painful journey .
The ability to motivate a terrified patient to rise to the challenge of a cancer diagnosis is just as necessary for an oncologist as their skills to treat the disease .
According to Dr Ang Peng Tiam , medical director of Parkway Cancer Centre in Singapore , it goes without saying that patients who receive strong medical , social and psychological support fare better in their treatment .
“ I ’ m a firm believer that those who are positive will have a better outcome ,” Dr Ang told Global Health Asia-Pacific .
“ It ’ s very hard to prove it in a scientific manner , but from personal experience of being an oncologist for more than 30 years , I can tell you with confidence that those who have stronger support tend to fare better .”
To illustrate this , he recalls a patient who walked into his clinic in a state of depression . He had been receiving treatment elsewhere and his disease was continuing to progress .
“ You could see he was in a bad way , emotionally ,” said Dr Ang . “ His head was bowed down and he looked broken . He was alive , but his spirit was gone .”
After commencing treatment at Parkway , which included sessions with our counsellors and support from our nurses , the patient ’ s mood began to change . He was happy to come for treatment . There was a little more fire in his belly , and the desire to get better .
“ I don ’ t know if it was whether it was a different treatment programme or because he was more positive due to how our whole team supported him , but the family was so grateful ,” said Dr Ang .
“ It shows me that it is very important not just to talk about the science , but to discuss how important it is to have a positive attitude . He found the courage to fight on .”
The moment of establishing initial rapport is critical for forming a strong bond between the doctor and a cancer patient .
At that first contact , there is the uncertainty in the mind of the patient about what lies ahead . This is understandable as cancer is not something like an appendectomy , where the outcome is expected to be good , stressed Dr Ang . It is a journey that may last for years and is filled with uncertainty , fear and dread .
“ When you first walk into a doctor ’ s room and have a diagnosis of cancer , there ’ s a great deal
118 DECEMBER 2021 - JANUARY 2022 GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com