Surgeon knocks armchair doctors

Armchair doctors inadvertently leading breast cancer patients astray remains one of the greatest concerns for general surgeon Ian Lewis.

He said that while in some cases people could be well-meaning, there were instances when outside interference could end up being to the detriment of cancer patients.

“There was a study done in Barbados in the early 2000s which stated upwards of 30 per cent of cancer patients come away from the recommended treatments.

“The factors included frustration, finances and becoming derailed by persons who are not trained to treat breast cancer but think they are – relatives who look up things on the Internet, feel they know better than the doctors and nurses, want to stamp their authority and then decide what is to be done and what is not to be done,” he said.

Lewis was the guest speaker at a symposium on Saturday organised by the Victorious Ladies Beyond Surviving and Conquering Men of Cancer Support Services. It took place in the St Paul’s Church Conference Centre, St Paul’s Avenue, Bayville, St Michael.

“More patients need to trust their doctors and follow through on the recommended treatments. One of my biggest concerns is non-compliance with the recommended medical programmes which may lead to bad outcomes,” he said.

As for the financial aspect, Lewis said this was a worldwide issue as treating breast cancer was expensive.

“The solution has to involve Government. We have to see breast cancer as a public health issue and continue to offer benefit schemes which include current medications. We are already doing some of that but we can do better,” he added.

The surgeon said the most basic principles of breast cancer remained the best, which in turn could reduce costs.

“Early detection not only leads to greater survivability but it also can prevent the need for more invasive and expensive treatments. This is why self-examinations are so important. I don’t think enough Barbadians are doing them and that is where Cancer Support Services can help spread the word. The public drives are very audible and visible in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but we need to keep the message up beyond then.”

Lewis explained that cancer at its core was a collection of reactions which led to a lump.

He said there were both genetic – unchangeable traits – and epigenetic factors, such as smoking, alcohol use, bad diet and lack of exercise, which contributed to the disease.

“The parting message I want to give is to keep the faith, early detection is important and while cancer treatment is expensive, we are not alone [in the world],” he said. (CA)



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