‘The Bible of Healing Cancer‘ ― a comprehensive tome
By Noh Hyun-gi
Many lives change the moment someone is diagnosed with cancer. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, nearly 800,000 people were diagnosed between 2000 and 2008; in 2008, cancer caused 28 percent of all deaths in Korea.
The illness puts a strain on the patient’s body, emotions and consequently relationships. Though a myriad of information is available on the Internet, sources are often dubious and organization absent.
To offer a comprehensive and credible reference, medical practitioners at the Cancer Center at Samsung Medical Center (SMC) published “The Bible of Healing Cancer” Friday. The 504-page volume covers symptom management, diet, supplementary treatment and government support. Tailored for adult patients, the book alternates between tips for patients and for caregivers. Specific guidelines for talking about the disease and death are easy to follow. Checklists for identifying complications such as edema and recipes for protein and fiber-rich snacks are highly applicable. Inserts from cancer survivors and families are also helpful.
Supplemental research is necessary for in-depth knowledge on medical procedures or pain management. Parents with children suffering from cancer may find this book inapplicable.
The first part of the book presents patients and caregivers’ responsibility to ameliorate nine categories of symptoms. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy breed problems including diarrhea, liver malfunction and hair loss. The book suggests a diet program, exercises and habit changes.
Naturally, a patient feels depressed and apprehensive through cancer therapy. Nonetheless left unaddressed, these conditions can lead to psychiatric disorders such as adjustment disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, and delirium. More than 10 percent of admitted patients at the SMC facility experience delirium or acute confusional state. Such conditions can enable each other and result in medication and alcohol abuse and suicide attempts. Caregivers must contact psychiatrists to supplement cancer management with necessary counseling and medicine.
Three chapters are dedicated to end-stage cancer patients who are most likely to be discharged from hospitals to palliative care units.
Breaking bad news to children
Friends and family face the challenge of providing emotional support which may be more strenuous than therapeutic assistance. The writers urge people to encourage patients to share their concerns. However, one should refrain from offering unbounded optimism and focus on listening and relating to their problems.
Discussing end-stage cancer is more delicate with children. The book categorizes children by age and suggests a varied approach to starting a conversation. For young children or grandchildren, a patient should deliver a simple description of cancer and emphasize that professionals are helping him or her to get better. “Stress that they are not at fault for the illness and help the children express anger or fear,” the book explains. The writers warn that kept uninformed, children may grow fearful and develop irrational beliefs, or delusions, about the patient’s condition.
Though the news may trigger behavioral problems coupled with the emotional instability of puberty, honest conversations with teenagers is advised. A patient can reach out to the child’s friends or teachers to help his or her adjustment.
Include grown-up offspring to decision making for therapy and legal planning for the family such as writing a will. The book highlights that they may feel guilty for developing a distance with the patient as they have gained independence.
Applying for subsidies
The Korean government administers various subsidies and tax breaks for cancer patients. National healthcare insurance keeps co-payment for cancer patients to 5 percent. Local health centers run by the health ministry offer medical-fee subsidies to individuals participating in the National Cancer Screening program. The 3-year benefit is limited to patients with stomach, breast, liver, colorectal or ovarian cancer. Lung cancer patients are eligible for 1 million won in annual support for three years from the government. Cancer patients can receive 2 million won tax deductions and apply for deductions on medical fees that exceed 3 percent of their salary.