It's hard when, despite our best efforts, a patient is not doing well, and that's something we have to deal with, says oncologist Lydia Shapira

February 7, 2023  12:07

The hardest thing about being an oncologist is that it's an emotional job. It's hard when you feel that despite your best efforts and your involvement, the patient is not doing well. And that's something we have to learn to deal with. Lydia Shapira, professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and head of the cancer survivorship program, told Medicine.

"I take care of patients whose condition is very serious. I constantly have to respond to their suffering. There's a lot of emotional involvement in the work. There's also room for frustration when things don't go well, when we can't get access to medication or can't get access to treatment," she said. 

The doctor added that an oncologist also needs to be up-to-date on the latest scientific advances, give patients the best recommendations and get the best results.

"In addition, you have to have the skills to recognize what the patient and family really need in order to overcome the effects of treatment and get back to a normal life. You have to understand how to take care of the patient so they can trust you and ask questions. You have to give them all the information so they can take care of themselves and find the best way to stay healthy even after cancer treatment," she said.

Speaking about the cancer survivorship program she runs, Lydia Shapira noted that the number of cancer survivors worldwide is increasing.  There are now 18 million cancer survivors in the United States. And globally, their numbers are growing as well.

"So in recent years there's been a lot of interest in thinking not only about how the patient gets care directly during the disease, but also about what happens after the disease. And part of that is because people who have been treated for cancer have undoubtedly experienced trauma and psychological effects, but it's not just about that.

The trauma they experience is often related to medical problems that arise in the future. So we need to develop the ability of caregivers to recognize the complications of cancer treatment, to intervene in the rehabilitation process, to provide education so that patients know what problem they may face in the future," she said. The oncologist explained that, for example, if a patient had leukemia as a child, they may have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease at a young age, so it's important that they know about it.

Lidia Shapira took part in the Third Armenian Cancer Congress in Yerevan.  

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