The deadly Disease: Cancer

Data shows that cancer strikes one in every nine Malaysian women and every 10 men.

To make matters worse, cancer is also mostly detected late in Malaysia with almost 60% of patients discovering it in stages three or four when the disease has already spread.

While the Health Ministry has been taking measures to battle the deadly disease, there is a lack of oncologists in the country.

There are only 115 oncologists in the country – just five more than the number in 2017. Of these, 42 are in government hospitals which include university hospitals, while the remaining 73 work in the private sector.

Health Ministry deputy Director General (public health) Datuk Dr Chong Chee Kheong said the ideal ratio would be eight to 10 oncologists per million people.

“If the Malaysian population is 34 million, the current ratio stands at 3.4 oncologists per one million people,” Dr Chong said.

He said 56 candidates were pursuing Masters in Clinical Oncology in Universiti Malaya, adding that the yearly intake would increase.

The existing National Strategic Plan for Cancer Control Programme (NSPCCP), he added, was also progressing well with improvements in screening coverage for main cancers such as colorectal cancer.

“Work is also in progress to build a cancer centre in the northern region,” he revealed.

On the late detection of cancer, he attributed this to mainly poor screen­­­ing uptake and delay in re­­cog­nising early signs of the disease.

“Detecting cancer at a late stage leads to higher cost of treatment and reduces the chance of a cure,” he said.

Dr Chong said 45% of cancer pa­­tients in Malaysia also faced financial problems, based on the Asean Costs in Oncology study by the George Institute for Global Health in Australia.

“This means the cost of their treatment exceeds 30% of family income after a year of being diagnosed with cancer,” he said.

He advised the people to change unhealthy habits, with the World Health Organisation estimating that between 30% and 50% of cancers could be prevented through a behavioural shift. Smoking, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and alcohol intake were the risk factors for cancer.

/theSTAR 0-02-2019 

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