Sarawak Cancer Centre is a necessity

Cancer is only going to be a chapter in your life, not the whole story.

Joe Wasser,  medical doctor

All of us will surely know someone — a family member, a friend or an acquaintance — who had succumbed to cancer.

It is very difficult to see a loved one battled the dreaded disease, and even more so if you are the caregiver.

For those of us who have taken care of people with cancer, we only know too well how emotionally drained it can be, especially towards the final days when the end is near.

All that is left for us to do is to continue to provide comfort and solace. Praying with the patient is the best thing to do throughout the ordeal.

Those suffering from cancer feel sad. That is understandable, of course. Who in the world wants to be inflicted with cancer?

They feel a sense of loss of their health, and the life they had before they learned they had the disease.

Many who are done with treatment will also feel sad. This is a normal response to any serious illness.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world with 9.6 million deaths worldwide as of 2018. In Malaysia, it contributed to 16,000 deaths over the same year, the Malaysian National Cancer Registry Report (MNCRR) revealed in January last year. The MNCRR is a publication of the National Cancer Institute.  

According to Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, cancer is still most commonly detected among the Chinese, followed by the Malays and the Indians. For every 100,000 Chinese, there were 106 men and 117 women living with cancer, the latest MNCRR 2012-2016 report stated.

Dr Noor Hisham also said the report found that in Malaysia, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer are the top three cancers among men, while for women, it’s breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer.

The most commonly diagnosed cancers among children aged 14 and below, on the other hand, are leukaemia and spinal cord cancer, while for adolescents aged 15 to 24, it is lymphoma.

What about cancer treatment services in Sarawak? It is available at Sarawak General Hospital in Kuching, Sibu Hospital, Miri Hospital, Kapit Hospital, and Sarikei Hospital.

It is to be noted that the Cancer Awareness Survey 2018 Report by the Society for Cancer Advocacy (SCAN) found that about half of participants in a survey among Sarawakians rated the quality of health care for cancer in Sarawak as “only fair” or “poor”.

SCAN president Sew Boon Lui had also stated that Sarawak only had six oncologists as of 2017, whereas according to the ideal ratio for Sarawak’s 2.47 million population, the state should have 24 oncologists.

The recommended ratio of oncologists to the Malaysian population is 10 to one million.

Hopefully, the people of Sarawak will see better quality treatment for cancer with the proposed Sarawak Cancer Centre.

Last Sunday in Kuching, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said he supported the move for Sarawak to have its own cancer centre.

“As far as the ministry is concerned, we believe that Sarawak needs this cancer centre so we are pushing for it. We will submit the proposal to the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) for them to consider,” he said during a working visit to the Sarawak General Hospital.

Let’s hope the new health minister gets down to work on keeping his promise to Sarawak. We have heard a lot of empty promises in the past from federal ministers from Malaya.

Last week, Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian stated that the state government would work closely with the federal government to set up a cancer centre in Sarawak so that the people would not have to travel to the Peninsula for treatment.

He said it was important for the state to have its own cancer centre because the cost of cancer treatment was expensive and many cannot afford to go for private treatment despite having insurance.

Hence, the Sarawak Cancer Centre is a necessity as at this time and age, it is unfair for Sarawakians to receive “only fair” or “poor” quality of healthcare for cancer. We have to move forward.

We are also glad to learn that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg was willing to offer financial options to the federal government for that purpose so that the people could have comprehensive cancer facilities as soon as possible.

At the same time, Dr Sim stressed that Sarawak has its own medical expertise in cancer treatment services.

With all that in place, what are we waiting for? Bring on the Sarawak Cancer Centre.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.