'Consider your options'

'Consider your options'

Oncologist advises women, men afflicted with breast cancer to explore treatments

Sunday, October 20, 2019

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A local oncologist is advising women and men afflicted with breast cancer not to limit their options when considering treatment for the dreaded disease.

Dr Andre Williams, integrative oncologist at Teshuva Wellness in Montego Bay, pointed out that patients are often conflicted when considering a treatment path for breast cancer, as they are frequently given the idea that when choosing between traditional and alternative medicine, one option is better than the other.

Dr Williams also noted that this dilemma often adds to the emotional and psychological burden of cancer patients.

“There is a widening chasm for patients who are diagnosed, in terms of deciding which treatment path to follow, because what's happening now — not only in Jamaica, but around the world — is that there's a disconnect between so-called 'conventional treatments' and the 'so-called 'alternative treatments', both of which are bashing the other and suggesting that the other is foolishness,” the oncologist is quoted as saying in a release from Jamaica National Group.

Dr Williams was addressing a recent think tank session, organised by The Jamaica National Group entitled, Beyond Breast Cancer. The forum was held as part of the group's #JNPowerofPink campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is internationally observed in October.

Traditional or conventional treatment for breast cancer usually includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal therapy, while alternative options entail acupuncture, detoxification diets, traditional Chinese medicine, and antioxidants, along with other alternatives.

There has, however, been an increase in the practice of integrative medicine, which is the practice of combining scientifically proven complementary therapies with conventional medicine, as part of a comprehensive plan to treat both the disease and its physical and emotional side effects, the release said.

Dr Williams stated that there needs to be deeper discussions among practitioners about all sides of the debate, in order to reach a greater understanding as to how the various treatment options can complement each other. He noted that, in many cases, some of the strategies employed in alternative therapy are missing from the conventional discussion of cancer treatment.

He further noted that the 'Power of Pink' discussion would also allow patients to have a better understanding about their options.

“So that they are not polarised in deciding that they must go conventional, or that they must go all alternative,” he informed.

Dr Beverley Wright, director of the Health Systems Support and Monitoring Unit at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, in agreeing with Dr Williams, noted that the Government is considering the inclusion of integrative treatment options, at its cancer treatment centres.

“In developed countries, both traditional and new methods are integrated, and that is where we hope to go,” she said.

She also noted that the Government plans to upgrade its two national cancer treatment centres, located in Kingston and St James, to cancer treatment centres of excellence, to provide more comprehensive and integrated care facilities for cancer patients.

Senator Dr Saphire Longmore, consultant psychiatrist and breast cancer survivor, pointed out that cost is often a factor when patients decide on which treatment modality to select.

“The reality is that, in our society, the affordability is what often determines that decision. Many persons would want to go the conventional medical treatment route; but they are not able to afford it, therefore, they seek the alternative methods. And, if they are not savvy about how they should proceed, it could end up being problematic,” she noted.

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