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2023 年 1 月 09 日

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8 分钟阅读

How Much Do Malaysian Know Avut Cancer?

World Cancer Day is on February 4th of every year. During this month, you will possibly see more cancer-related articles in the media coupled with various fundraisers for cancer causes. But at the grassroot level, how much have we achieved when it comes to cancer awareness? We posed some cancer-related questions to Malaysians on the streets. Columbia Asia Hospital – Bukit Rimau Consultant Medical Oncologist Dr. Kananathan Ratnavelu comments on their answers.  

What is the most common type of cancer in Malaysia?

“I’m not so sure, but I think maybe cancer that is related to the heart.” 
“I feel that the main cancer is lung cancer, because there are a lot of smokers.”  

According to Dr Kana based on the Malaysian Cancer Registry with statistics from 2007 to 2011, breast cancer is the number one cancer in the country. Secondly is colorectal cancer followed by lung cancer, and then lymphoma or cancer of the lymph nodes, and finally nasopharyngeal cancer.  

“There is still a lack of awareness of how important it is to screen early,” he elaborates. “There are still many Malaysian women who are not coming forward to take up mammograms, even if these are being subsidized by the government. By the time they realize the seriousness of the disease, the cancer is in its late stage. And that is why breast cancer is the leading cancer in Malaysia.”  

Do you think you are risk-free if you have no family history of cancer?

“No, I would say that there is still a risk because I heard cancer can be hereditary.”  
“I think if you don’t take care of yourself, and if it’s meant to happen, then you might get it.”  

As stated by Dr Kana, there is something called familial cancers which are hereditary such as breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer. However, there are also cancers that science do not have answers to. “We don’t know the cause,” exclaims Dr Kana. “It could be due to smoking, or a viral infection, or Hepatitis B in liver cancer, or HSV (herpes simplex virus) for cervical cancer.”  

He also mentioned environmental and lifestyle factors that put one at risk of getting cancer. “These are the things that can cause cancer, so there is no such thing as risk-free when it comes to cancer,” adds Dr Kana.  

Do the elderly and obese have a higher risk of getting cancer?

“I would say that people who have an unhealthy lifestyle, are at a risk of getting cancer.”  

Dr Kana emphasizes that cancer can happen to anyone. However, he says that it is more common among the elderly. “As we age, our cells are not as strong as when we were younger, so this can lead to damaged cells which in turn, can result in the development of cancer,” he says. On the other hand, he also mentions that there is a population of younger patients who are getting cancer.  

“There are patients as young as 19 years old who get breast cancer and cervical cancer. Even children get cancer such as leukemia and brain cancer, but pediatric cancer is in a different category altogether,” he notes. “The bottom line is cancer affects everyone from all segments of life.”  

Is there still hope for cancer patients?

“I don’t think it’s curable especially for those who are in stage 4, and it’s like a death sentence for them.”  
“I don’t think it will be easy because I think you’ll have to go through a few radiotherapies. Then you might have the chance to be cured.”  

The dreaded disease is said to be curable under certain conditions, with Stage 1 being the most ideal time for treatment. This is when the cancer is confined to a small area and has not grown nor spread to other areas in the body.  

“If you are able to detect cancer at stage 1, there is every chance that the patient can survive the disease. For example, stage 1 in colon cancer is when polyps are detected. After these are removed, and with consistent monitoring, the patient is basically cured,” says Dr Kana.  

“There are also patients in advanced stages who are cured,” he adds. “The driving factor for any cancer patient to get better is to have hopes that they can get better.”  

The doctor has spoken

At the end of the day, there is still much to be done to increase cancer awareness among Malaysians. The main objective is to encourage early cancer screenings in order to treat and hopefully cure the cancer. ”  

“We are able to diagnose, treat, give chemotherapy or radiotherapy. In fact, we have a good day care center for our cancer patients. We also have a team of trained and experienced experts comprising clinical oncologists, a hemato-oncologist, a palliative physician, an interventional radiologist, a pain management doctos and a medical oncologist. But more important than all of these skills and facilities, is for patients to get the cancer before the cancer gets them.” 

This article first appeared in Malaysiakini Facebook Page, 14 October 2022.

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2023 年 1 月 09 日

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8 分钟阅读

How Much Do Malaysian Know Avut Cancer?

Dr. Kananathan A/l Ratnavelu

Oncology

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