TRUST: Toowoomba oncologist Dr Khageshwor Pokharel.
TRUST: Toowoomba oncologist Dr Khageshwor Pokharel.

Toowoomba breast cancer specialist takes on guiding role

BREAST cancer is a very emotional diagnosis.

But oncologist Dr Khageshwor Pokharel said there are a number of different treatment options now available which have vastly improved the prognosis.

New drugs are continuing to gain better results and clinical trials and improvements in treatment are ongoing.

Dr Pokharel is director of Cancer Care Services at Toowoomba Hospital as well as working privately at Icon Cancer Care at St Andrew's Hospital.

"If you get a breast cancer diagnosis early, it is treatable and it is curable," Dr Pokharel said.

"But even where it is advanced, people are living so much longer.

"Even though it is incurable, there are a lot of options now to prolong and give quality of life."

In some cases, he said, it was becoming like a chronic condition which people treated and lived with.

While there are different varieties of breast cancer and different stages, and therefore no "one size fits all treatment", he said a diagnosis was always an emotional rollercoaster for that person and their entire family.

Patients were understandably extremely anxious when they first came to see him, but he said much of this was associated with fear of the unknown.

He gets to know the patient, what they understand about their tumour, and puts the diagnosis into perspective, helping them comprehend both the diagnosis and the treatment options in simple language.

He said communication was vital and it was very important to have someone you trust to "guide you through the journey".

Breast cancer patient Sharon Sojourner said Dr Pokharel's approach had put her at ease with what was to come.

"He feels your pain. You can see it from his expression and the way he talks to you," she said.

"He goes the extra mile. He's with you in it, and you feel really cared for."

Dr Pokharel said surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy and other drug therapies could all be used in different combinations and to different effect depending on the type of cancer involved.

And the risk of cancer returning had been significantly reduced.

There had also been improvements made in reducing the nausea and vomiting traditionally associated with chemotherapy - something many patients were concerned about.

The most important thing, he said was to "see a specialist, keep your mind open and know and understand the options before you make any decisions".

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