OmanPride: Meeting the psychological needs of women with breast cancer

More sports Monday 24/July/2017 19:24 PM
By: Times News Service
OmanPride: Meeting the psychological needs of women with breast cancer

For Dr Nishat Shams, who provides counselling to women suffering from breast cancer, giving emotional support to individuals diagnosed with breast cancer is as important as its early diagnosis and treatment. Dr Shams works in the Ministry of Health and has had considerable experience in dealing with women who go through major emotional turmoil when diagnosed with breast cancer, mostly as a volunteer. Having lived in the United States for long, Dr Shams completed her MBBS from Pakistan and pursued her PhD in the United States, but decided to come back to Oman as she wanted to do something for breast cancer patients here.

"I am doing this (volunteering) for five years now. Since I am well versed in Hindi and Arabic, it becomes very easy for me to reach out to people," said Dr Shams, who started her journey by volunteering at the Royal Hospital. "It was a chance to get familiar with the society. Since I have a physician background I started in the Oncology unit and dealt with women suffering from breast cancer or any other cancer, though my focus was mainly on the children," she remembered.

Dr Shams started by counselling Omanis and expatriates who were going through the treatment. "If you look at the problem, breast cancer is something that does not only relate to the women, but to the whole family. With the diagnosis, a woman goes through tremendous stress, which includes loss of hair. If she has to go through mastectomy, she has to lose her femininity," said Dr Shams, while talking about the different psychological issues pertaining to the disease.

While volunteering at the Royal Hospital during her initial days, she realised that despite medical help, cancer patients were not being provided with the psychological support that is so essential. "I must say that the Royal Hospital gave me a free hand and really supported me in my work," said Dr Shams, who also worked for the orphans in Oman and with Yuthar Al Rawahy for the Oman Cancer Association.

Talking about her role as a counsellor, Dr Shams said that she never gives false hope to her patients. "We only teach how to cope. While volunteering I understood that there is a lack of professional help in dealing with psychological issues in this country. So I started giving seminars and lectures on this."

Dr Shams, who is currently doing a research on the psychological intervention of breast cancer, along with a few doctors at the Sultan Qaboos University, said a lot of awareness is needed when it comes to the psychological part. "Through my research I want to show that we are missing a huge psychological aspect of cancer and that has to be addressed now. Even now people in Oman come for checkups at a later stage. A lot has been done for the diagnosis and treatment, but very less has been done about the psychological part," she informed. This is her second research where she is addressing to issues on early diagnosis and psychological intervention.

"There are many therapies in dealing with the psychological aspect of breast cancer and I am dealing with cognitive behavioural therapy. It means how people can cope with the problem and how people can change their thought process," she added. Talking about depression and mental health in general, Dr Shams said that she always educates her clients by saying that, "If you can have malaria, you can have depression too, and by that you don’t become lesser by any means."

"I suffered depression when I was in the medical college, I took treatment and today I am a doctor myself. It can happen to anyone," she said. Dr Shams, who also counsels women who go through a divorce or other life issues, decided to stay back in Oman despite getting many offers from abroad as she wanted to make a difference in Oman. "If God has given me education and skill then it is wrong on my part to withhold it."
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