KUCHING: Breast cancer incidence in Asia is increasing at a rapid rate and the survivability of this disease in Malaysia is one of the worst in the Asia Pacific region. However, breast cancer survival rates have actually improved dramatically in Western countries.
According to Cancer Research Malaysia (CRM) chief executive officer Datin Paduka Prof Dr Teo Soo Hwang, it boils down to when the disease is presented — in Western countries, breast cancer is usually detected at an early stage while in Malaysia, about 55 to 60 percent of patients present during the late stages of the disease.
“Moreover, once they present the disease, many people do not adhere to treatment,” she explained during her speech at the launching of the Breast Care Centre (Breast Specialist Clinic and Pink Ribbon Centre) at Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) here, yesterday.
She said approximately two million women globally would be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, adding that this is the most common cancer in nearly all countries.
Dr Teo remarked that there were three important factors to consider in terms of why women present late and/or did not adhere to treatment.
“One group of individuals who presents late does not know they have cancer and that it could kill them. However, they adhere well to treatment once they are informed,” she said, adding that this meant more effective channels would need to be used to target information at these individuals so they would come forward for treatment.
“The second group of individuals presents late and they do not adhere to treatment. They do not believe in chemotherapy or surgery, and instead mostly believe in alternative medicines,” she explained.
She further said this is a very challenging group as their mindset towards healthcare is different, though hopefully current breast cancer survivors would be able to change the outlook of such
“Finally, our third group is people who do not have the means to seek treatment — they do not have financial or logistical support.
“This is where social welfare and community navigators come in,” Dr Teo elaborated. She expressed her hope that with funding via Sime Darby Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and CRM’s partners, it will be possible to offer treatment services to such
Touching on the work of CRM, she revealed that CRM now leads one of the largest Asian studies to uncover why some women are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
“We want to work towards early detection and look into interventions we can put into place to
prevent these cancers.”
Dr Teo highlighted that their goal was to explore issues of women presenting breast cancer late and the barriers they faced, as well as how to develop solutions that were scalable to be made available throughout the country.
Thus, she said that they started with a one-stop centre where patients could be treated differently via the Patient Navigation Programme in 2015 — in efforts to improve the survival rate of breast cancer patients.
Ministry of Health (MOH) general surgical services head Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Yusof Abdul Wahab in his speech highlighted the importance of continuity of care in treating breast cancer.
“We have evolved in terms of how we manage breast cancer patients by creating a dedicated team and exploring timeliness,” he said.
He added that the Patient Navigation Programme was all about understanding the needs of the patient, identifying all barriers, and ensuring patients complete their journey.
Head of State’s wife Toh Puan Datuk Patinggi Raghad Kurdi Taib officiated at the launching of the Breast Care Centre here.
During the ceremony, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between CRM and SGH.
Besides this, a donation of RM30,000 was made by Raghad to SGH. She also took a tour of the Breast Care Centre’s facilities.
Also present were CRM chairperson Toh Puan Datuk Seri Dr Aishah Ong; Sarawak Health Department deputy director (management) Paul Sazin Riget; MOH medical development division deputy director Datin Seri Dr Asmah Samar; SGH director Dr Chin Zin Hing; SGH surgery department head Dr Nik Azim Nik Abdullah; SGH breast and endocrine surgeon Dr Adibah Ali and SGH consultant general surgeon Dr Rokayah Julaihi.