Cancer – a silent killer in Malaysia

Cancer! Every time I hear this word, it brings me back to the dark and sad moments in my life that I wish I could put behind. Unfortunately, one thing about cancer is that its determination knows no boundary.

It does not discriminate! I lost two wonderful women in my life to cancer — my mom and my grandma.

My mom lost her battle against lung cancer in 2014. Funny thing is, she had never smoked in her life. By the time she was diagnosed, she was already in the last stage.

But she was a very strong woman and refused to let it dampen her spirit. She was so determined to enjoy her remaining life. The doctor was wonderful and refused to give up on her and recommended chemotherapy even though she had very low chance of surviving.

It broke my heart seeing her in pain, because I know the pain associated with chemo extremely well. I had cancer a year before my mom passed on. I wished I could take the pain away from her.

I saw my mother’s health gradually deteriorating and there was nothing we could do. Three months later, she finally threw in the towel and drew her last breath on a Tuesday morning. She did not have any more strength left to fight but she had put up a good fight. She was not supposed to last six months but she did.

Three weeks ago, a bubbly, wonderful, beautiful and caring young woman passed on due to breast cancer. There was never a dull moment when she was around.

She was diagnosed with late stage two cancer two years ago. But instead of getting the proper treatment, she opted for a non-conventional treatment because she was so afraid of the effects of chemotherapy on her body.

She refused to give in and continued on living her life, but three weeks ago, she finally succumbed to cancer. 

What is cancer? Cancer can be defined as the uncontrolled or unregulated growth of cells.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. It is also the second cause of death globally and is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. Globally, about 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer and about 70 percent of cancer deaths occur in low and middle-income countries (WHO Cancer Key Facts 2018).

With cancer on the rise, scientists and researchers have been conducting numerous clinical trials each year, working out the cure for this illness.

Chemotherapy has a success rate of 70 percent, however weaker and older patients usually are unable to withstand the treatment, and at times give in to the illness.

In Malaysia, it is the fourth leading cause of death (12.6 percent). The most common type of cancer are breast cancer (for women) and lung cancer (men).

Around 43,837 new cancer cases were reported last year, while the number of reported deaths were 26,395 a little over half the number of cases reported (Globocan 2018).

Should we be concerned? Perhaps.

Previously, it was thought that the consumption of water in plastic water bottles could cause cancer, but recent studies found this to not be the case, as the studies showed that one would have to have genetic predisposition in order for them to contract the illness.

In other words, you would have to have the genes that carry the cancer marker in order for you to contract it. This explains why not all smokers and alcoholics contract cancer.

Just because you may be a cancer carrier, it does not mean that you may develop it later in life. Whether or not you get cancer is all based on your environment, diet and lifestyle.

Spicy foods do little to no harm in others, but may endanger the life of a stomach ulcer patient, the precautions cancer gene carriers take are vital. The rate of deaths caused by cancer in 2018 was 9.6 million, with the leading cancer being cancer of the lungs.

Doctors and researchers alike advise the public to consume healthy foods, such as a balanced diet and avoid the consumption of alcohol and fatty foods.

Physical activity at least three times a week is also vital. It is also important to properly manage and relieve stress levels, as some researchers think it might influence cancer growth.

To actually pinpoint the cause of cancer is complex, because some people develop it later in life despite a healthy diet. This has caused researchers to believe that cancer might not only be triggered by diet, but also environment or emotional wellbeing.

That said, it is important that we take the necessary steps to ensure a long healthy life.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.