The Taiwan Society for Thoracic Care, a support group for patients with lung, esophageal or thymus cancer, was established yesterday, with the aim of offering disease prevention education and providing a platform for patients to exchange information and share their experiences.
Lai Hong-shiee (賴鴻緒), director of National Taiwan University Hospital’s (NTUH) Department of Surgery, said the support group could not only promote better understanding of the thoracic cancers, but also better communicate between doctors and patients.
“There sometimes exist communication gaps between the physicians, who are the specialists and the suffering patients. However, within a support group, patients with similar experiences can share relevant information and experiences to reduce both misunderstanding and fear,” he said.
“It’s said that ‘prolonged illness makes the patient a good doctor.’ Healthcare providers’ answers can sometimes be standardized and they can be complemented by information shared by patients with similar experiences, in terms of both treatment process and emotion,” said Lee Chang-ming (李章銘), head of NTUH’s Department of Thoracic Surgery.
Lung cancer, esophageal cancer and thymus cancer are the major thoracic cancers in Taiwan, with 80 percent of the patients with thoracic cancers suffering from those three cancers, Lee said.
“The rates of esophageal cancer and lung cancer have been increasing rapidly over the past few years, with the latter being ranked the leading cause of cancer deaths in the country for years,” he added. “Although esophageal cancer is not ranked as high, the rise in the number of patients diagnosed with it has been quite drastic in the past few years.”
The risk factors include smoking, alcohol consumption, betel nut chewing, environmental toxins in the air or food, Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection and a family history of cancer.
“People who have at least a pack of cigarettes a day or a bottle of beer every day for more than 10 years can be considered at high risk of developing lung and esophageal cancers,” Lee said.
Yet while the number of patients with these cancers has been increasing, technology has been advancing for early diagnosis and treatment.
Minimally invasive surgery aided by robotic arms means patients with these cancers recover more quickly than from conventional surgery and suffer fewer post-operative complications, the group said.