Exhibitors at the 2013 UAE Cancer Congress display some of the latest technology used to treat the disease. Image Credit: FRANCOIS NEL/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE is fast adopting a holistic approach to treating cancers in the country.

During the opening of the UAE Cancer Congress 2013 on Thursday, senior officials stressed that going forward cancer treatment will have a multidisciplinary care approach.

They espoused the holistic approach saying it focuses on treating the person afflicted with cancer rather than only the illness.

They said to deal with cancer pain and in some cases, the side effects of treatment, a holistic approach involves specialties such as medicine, nursing, nutrition, surgery, oncology, radiation therapy, psychiatry, psychology, and social workers.

To drive home the message, the three-day Congress included workshops on nutrition as an integral component of care and on nursing-focused education to enhance the role of nurses in caring for cancer patients.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), a community-based voluntary health organisation in the US, holistic methods are becoming more common in mainstream care and may be used along with standard treatment or preventive care.

Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Shaheenah Dawood, Congress president and head of medical oncology at Dubai Hospital, said that several healthcare professionals are involved with the care of a cancer patient whose health depends on the balance of physical, psychological, social factors as well as cultural.

She said, “You need to have on board various specialities to care for a cancer patient. This year’s Congress brings together experts in the field to discuss the best multi-disciplinary approaches.”

Dr Bassim Al Bahrani, Director of the National Oncology Centre in Oman, and one of the conference organisers told Gulf News, “Cancer treatment is to be tackled as a package — to deal with a person as a whole. From all aspects, cancer treatment should be addressed taking into account a person’s priorities and stressors.”

He said nutrition is integral to deal with possible side-effects of cancer treatment. “For example pain medication can cause constipation and/or nausea. Looking into appetite and eating habits will help the patient better comply with treatment.”

Dr Faisal Badri, Head of General Surgery at Rashid Hospital, added, “We also adapt international guidelines to meet our patients’ needs. For example, breast cancer screenings are carried out at an earlier age in the UAE, compared to internationally, based on the person’s family history.”