THE COSTS OF LIVING
A recent study revealed that nearly 20 per cent of cancer patients are forced to stop treatment within the first year of being diagnosed due to the high costs. While this highlights the need for medical insurance, it also emphasises the importance of early detection.
There are some figures that hit close to home from the recent ASEAN Costs in Oncology study by the Sydney-based George Institute for Global Health. Almost half of Malaysian cancer patients experienced financial catastrophe, defined as spending more than 30 per cent of household income on out-of-pocket expenses for cancer treatment, within 12 months of diagnosis. Of that number, 46 per cent had used up all their personal savings by the end of the first year, while 22 per cent could no longer pay their rents or mortgages. Almost one-fifth are forced to discontinue treatment altogether.
The study, subtitled Cancer and its Economic Impact on Households in the ASEAN Countries, is the first of its kind in South-East Asia, and highlights in stark relief the economic hardship many face after being diagnosed with cancer. There are an estimated 90,000 to 100,000 Malaysians living with cancer at any one time, and the World Health Organisation believes the number of new cases detected annually will increase to 57,000 by 2025. The National Cancer Society of Malaysia expects one in four Malaysians to be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 75. And with only 22 per cent of Malaysians having medical or critical illness insurance, the prognosis does seem grim indeed.
There is, however, some light and the National Cancer Society of Malaysia is one of those organisations seeking a way out of the tunnel. The first not-for-profit cancer organisation in Malaysia has been providing education, care and support services for people affected by cancer since its founding in 1966. While its mission – to create “an understanding of cancer that leads to prevention and early detection by providing the best possible care and support for those affected by cancer” – is a noble one, it is its vision, of a world without cancer, that is the most laudable and deserving of support.
Another organisation more than pulling its weight is Cancer Research Malaysia, located in the Sime Darby Medical Centre in Subang Jaya, Selangor. Consisting of a 40-strong team of researchers, the laboratory concentrates on areas that it deems strategically important, including focusing on cancers that are more common