The impact of breast cancer on the patient and the family in Indian perspective

Authors : Alexander A, Kaluve R, Prabhu JS, Korlimarla A, Srinath BS, Manjunath S, Patil S, Gopinath KS, Sridhar TS

Publication Year : 2019

Abstract :

To understand the role played by the immediate family in treatment decision and support in patients diagnosed with breast cancer, the influence of demographic factors on psychosocial roles of women within the family.

A mixed method design used for data collection on family support, financial arrangement and psychosocial impact of cancer from 378 women with breast cancer recruited at first diagnosis between 2008 and 2012, during multiple counseling sessions. The median follow-up is 7 years with only 2% lost to follow-up.

Most patients (99%) had support from family members. 57% of patients met the costs of treatment through personal savings and health insurance. The rest (43%) had difficulty and had to resort to desperate measures such as selling their property or taking on high-interest personal loans. Patients with higher education and urban settings had better financial management. A male member of the family (husband or son) was the main decision maker in half of the cases. Concerns over women's responsibilities within the family varied by the age of the patient. The vast majority of women (90%) experienced social embarrassment in dealing with the disease and its aftermath.

In India, it is the family that provides crucial support to a woman with breast cancer during her ordeal with the disease and its treatment. This study has implications on the psychosocial support beyond the cancer patients alone, to include the immediate family and consider aspects of finance and social adjustments as critical in addition to the routine medical aspects of the disease.