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Psychiatrist and breast cancer survivor cares for cancer patients at Upstate

One of the first things psychiatrist Aliya Hafeez, MD, tells her patients is that she began specializing in psychiatry services for people with cancer because she is a breast cancer survivor, herself.

“I feel like it’s an additional degree that I’ve gotten,” she says of her health ordeal, which began with a diagnosis in November 2009. She went through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery at Upstate’s Regional Oncology Center. “Now I get to work with all of the doctors who treated me.”

Her office is at the same location many cancer patients come to see their physicians. “Psychologically, it makes a huge difference if they get to see me where they get their care,” she says. “I really want to make them feel like my care is part of their cancer treatment.” She is kitty-corner from the hospital, at 550 Harrison St., in the Patricia J. Numann Center for Breast, Endocrine & Plastic Surgery. Reach her by calling 315-464-6275.

Hafeez joined the Upstate staff a couple years ago, after completing her psychiatry residency in 2007 at Upstate. She obtained her medical degree from Fatima Jinnah Medical College in Pakistan. She offers individual psychotherapy, medication management and hopes to add a stress reduction group and other support groups after the Upstate Cancer Center opens.

Survival rates for cancer are improving, though the disease still has a negative association with death. Hafeez wants to step away from the gloom and doom and focus more on living the best life possible.

Her personal experience with breast cancer left her feeling fortunate. She was able to take time off work, and family members took care of her throughout chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Her sister or brother would accompany her to medical appointments. “Mom and Dad stayed home and prayed.”

Cancer is something we cannot control, but Hafeez says her experience taught her that “you can control how you are going through that experience with cancer,” and she hopes to share that with her patients.

Caption: Aliya Hafeez, MD, a psychiatrist who battled breast cancer, provides individual psychotherapy for cancer patients and will add stress reduction and other support groups to her responsibilities after the Upstate Cancer Center opens next year.