ATTENTION TO THE emotional and psychological well-being of a breast cancer patient is just as crucial as physiological treatment, according to Candace Ho, clinical psychologist of Tuen Mun Hospital. In a society where emphasis on beauty is disproportionately placed on the breast, breast cancer treatment can cause major trauma to most patients' self-esteem and self-image, she said. 'There will be scarring from surgery, hair loss and sallow complexion from the adjuvant treatments. This makes patients feel less attractive. They will take baths in the dark or not look at a mirror to avoid the reality. This is especially true for those in the early post-surgery stage,' Dr Ho said. One consequence is that they feel unattractive to their husbands and lose confidence in intimate relationships. 'If they can't accept themselves, how can they face their spouses or partners? The worst thing is they don't talk about it. 'Husbands worry about touching a raw nerve and wives distance themselves or reject their husbands because of their lack of self-confidence. It is a very common problem. 'Such anxiety can last for a long time if not resolved. It may affect their daily life. They may become paranoid about what to eat, how to exercise. Many complain of panic attacks. 'If this is not resolved, it could affect the patient for years,' Dr Ho said. To deal with such issues, couples must go to the root of the problem - the lack of confidence and communication. 'We help patients see that beauty doesn't radiate from the breast alone. There are prosthetics to help improve appearances so that socially they don't feel embarrassed. 'Wives are encouraged to discuss their emotions, to understand that their husbands do not mind,' Dr Ho said. 'If it's a healthy relationship, love for the wife and the family will remain intact. Harmony does not come from having a complete breast.' In many cases, family members of a breast cancer patient also need emotional support. 'Once a family member has cancer, it's stressful for the whole family. They need to provide support. 'There might be problems such as loss of income if the patient is unable to work. This can put everyone under stress. 'Some patients have said their family members were even more scared than themselves. So we provide counselling to whole families, not just the patients, to help them face the illness and handle stress management effectively,' Dr Ho said. Such counselling is available in hospitals through clinical psychologists, nursing specialists or social workers. 'The psychological treatment is as important as physiological one,' Dr Ho said. The Pink Revolution campaign also helps improve perception of the illness - that suffering from breast cancer does not mean you are not a beautiful woman. 'If they don't give up, they will become more beautiful, as I see from many patients, because they know how to value themselves and to admire their other attributes,' Dr Ho said.