The Peak (Malaysia) - - Expressions -

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

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