KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Most Malaysian women have not been regularly screened for breast or cervical cancer, while the majority of adults have not undergone health screening in the past year.
The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019 by the Institute for Public Health (IKU), a research institute under the National Institutes of Health by the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported that a staggering 75 per cent of women above the age of 40 in Malaysia have never had a mammogram, an X-ray picture of the breast, in their lifetime. A mammogram is conducted to look for early signs of breast cancer.
Among women above the age of 40, only 21 per cent have had a mammogram in the past three years from the time of interview, while only one in four of women in this age group had ever done a mammogram, according to the national survey.
Pahang and Kelantan were the two states reported to have the lowest uptake of the mammogram screening test at 11 per cent and 7 per cent respectively.
As many as half of the nation’s female population aged 18 and above reportedly did not practice breast self-examination, which is an easy way for women to detect breast cysts or tumours without visiting a hospital.
As for cervical cancer screening, NHMS 2019 reported an astounding 60 per cent of women aged 20 and above did not undergo a pap smear in the past three years from the day of the interview, and only 25 per cent of them were aware of self-sampling HPV tests.
Furthermore, only a mere 36.6 per cent of adult women had undergone a pap smear in the past one year. A pap smear is a cervical swab test commonly used to screen for cervical cancer.
According to the Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report (MNCRR) 2012-2016 published earlier this year, an estimated 34 out of 100,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2012 and 2016, an increase from an estimated 31 diagnoses between 2007 and 2011.
The cancer registry also reported a decrease in cervical cancer cases from years 2012 to 2016 compared to years 2007 to 2011.
Since the year 2011, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has been providing free HPV (human papillomavirus) immunisation in schools for 13-years-old girls in order to induce protection against the viral infection that commonly leads to cervical cancer.
Insurance company Etiqa and non-profit ROSE Foundation had also launched a free cervical cancer screening programme last July, which provides HPV tests for women in the bottom 40 (B40) income group in Malaysia for one year.
ROSE’s HPV testing was the first in the world to use self-administered HPV tests, and its laboratory was launched this February at Universiti Malaya.
In addition to cancer screening, an alarming 66.7 per cent of adults in Malaysia did not perform a medical check-up or health screening in the past 12 months prior to the NHMS 2019 interview, while only a mere 4.8 per cent of adults utilised private medical laboratories in the past 12 months.
One-Third Of Young Men Suffer Erectile Dysfunction
A shocking three out of 10 Malaysian adult males reported difficulties achieving an erection that was “hard enough” in bed, according to the national survey, which defines erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence as “the inability of a male to produce or maintain an erection during sexual activity”.
While the majority of those who suffer from ED were older men aged 60 and above at 64.1 per cent, the proportion of younger men aged between 18 and 29 who experienced ED (36.9 per cent) were found to be significantly bigger than middle-aged men between the age of 30 and 59 (25.2 per cent).
The causes of ED in younger men were thought to be due to “over-expectation than it being an actual problem” according to the NHMS 2019, while the cause of ED in older men could be a disease by itself or a symptom of other diseases.
As for benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), another male specific medical condition where a man’s prostate gland is enlarged, as many 16 per cent of men aged 40 and above in Malaysia suffer from BPH.
Among those who experienced BPH, 16 per cent were among married men, 24 per cent were among older men, while 17 per cent were among rural men.
The prevalence of BPH among Malaysian men reportedly increases with age, where the percentage of symptomatic BPH increases from 10 per cent among 40-year-olds to 33 per cent among 75-year-olds, which shows a 23 per cent increase over the span of 35 years.
More than half of the men with symptomatic BPH (57 per cent) had reported dissatisfaction with their urination.
The NHMS 2019 also reported that Malaysia’s BPH statistics showed a lower percentage of symptomatic enlarged prostate compared to global estimates of 26 per cent.
Community Pharmacies More Than Just A Retail Business
The national survey found that only one in 10 Malaysian adults, or 10.2 per cent, had visited a community pharmacy in the past two weeks prior to the interview for health purposes, which showed an underutilisation of community pharmacies.
There are an estimated 3,000 community pharmacies in Malaysia, according to 2016 data from the Pharmaceutical Services Division, MOH.
Besides the sale of medicines in community or retail pharmacies, customers can also receive advice on medications, advice on treatment for minor illnesses from pharmacists, assistance in self-monitoring of blood glucose and blood pressure levels, and other services such as smoking cessation, weight management and others.