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  arrow In the News & Newsletters


Win the battle against cancer

7 February 2014

NOT A DEATH SENTENCE: Early detection and new drugs improve patients' chances of survival

KUALA LUMPUR: MANY cancer patients in Malaysia do not seek proper treatment despite the presence of state-of-the-art therapies and new drugs because of misconceptions about cancer management.

Inaccurate information, obtained from informal channels, has led many patients to seek alternative treatments.

Malaysian Oncology Society (MOS) president Dr Ahmad Kamal Mohamad said many patients had been misled. They believed cancer could not be cured by modern-day medicine and sought alternative treatments.

He said cancer was curable if detected early and received clinical treatment. Refusal or delay in treatment would compromise a patient's chances for cure or survival.

"Studies in several countries have shown that cancer-related deaths are decreasing. This is attributed to early detection, advancement in treatment and the availability of new drugs.

"In Malaysia, we, too, have advanced medical equipment and drugs to treat cancer patients and the number of cancer deaths has decreased because of them," Dr Ahmad said after the launch of Project Life, a DVD featuring a two-part trilingual documentary on cancer management developed by MOS and Sanofi Oncology.

Based on the latest data from the National Cancer Registry, 18,219 new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2007. Of these, 57.6 per cent were already in the advanced stage, where the chances of survival was low.

MOS honorary council member Datuk Dr Mohamed Ibrahim A. Wahid said the tragedy behind cancer mortality was misconceptions about its management and not the lack of advanced treatment facilities and drugs.

He said the key concerns of doctors were the public being misinformed about cancer screening, early detection and the promotion of unproven therapies that were harmful.

"While the Internet is a good source of information, it also contains misinformation and individuals claiming to be cancer experts.

"Patients might end up believing what they read on treatment options and feel pressured to discard mainstream therapies in favour of alternative traditional therapies.

"Because of their emotional and psychological state, they can be easily misled and fall prey to the very first person who offers a 'cure'."

Dr Mohamed Ibrahim said patients seeking unproven alternative treatments might not only become financially burdened by the high costs, but also risked losing their lives.

Both oncologists said while it was acceptable for patients to seek alternative treatments, they should remain as a supplement to treatments they received from doctors and not vice versa.

On the Project Life initiative, Dr Mohamed Ibrahim said it aimed to equip patients with accurate information on cancer diagnosis and treatments.

The DVD also features testimonials from cancer survivors on how they overcame challenges in their battle with the disease.

The DVD, which is available at all oncology centres nationwide, will be given away free to patients upon consultation with doctors.

Based on the World Health Organisation International Agency for Research on Cancer statistics, the number of Malaysians inflicted with cancer escalated from 31,998 in 2008 to 34,386 in 2010. This number is expected to rise to 40,939 in 2015.

Breast, lungs, nasopharyneal, colorectal and cervical cancers are the top five common ones affecting both men and women in Malaysia.

This article was first published in on 25 November 2012.

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