KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 — Early detection of lung cancer will increase chances of survival, while new treatments may lead to better quality of life for patients, medical experts said.
The Lung Cancer Network Malaysia (LCNM), a group of health professionals working on lung cancer, also stated that lung cancer, the third most common cancer in Malaysia, is diagnosed at the late stages of three and four for 93 per cent of men and 92 per cent of women.
“Lung cancer is no longer just a male smoker’s problem. It is affecting more everyday Malaysians. The public needs to be aware that lung cancer is preventable and potentially curable if detected at an early stage,” Dr Anand Sachithanandan, co-founder of LCNM and a cardiothoracic surgeon, said in a recent virtual media briefing.
“Unfortunately, we see many cases of people with advanced lung cancer who did not get their symptoms checked early because they did not fit the profile for the disease.”
It is to be noted that the cancer cells spread to different parts of the lungs, the lymph nodes, or other organs, and cause other complications at stages three and four.
LCNM also emphasised that early detection paves the way for timely treatment, which would enable people with lung cancer to slow down their disease progression, manage their condition better, live much longer, and enjoy a better quality of life.
Dr Muhammad Azrif Ahmad Annuar, president of the Malaysian Oncological Society (MOS), an oncologists’ group, highlighted new cancer treatments and mentioned that evolving treatments for lung cancer have shown positive outcomes.
“The treatment landscape for lung cancer has evolved tremendously over the years, with newer treatments such as immunotherapy and targeted therapy. This has enabled positive results in achieving better prognosis and quality of life for people living with lung cancer,” Dr Muhammad said.
In conjunction with World Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November, LCNM, MOS and the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM), with the support of pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca Malaysia and Roche Malaysia, have launched an awareness campaign, “Knowing Lung Cancer Campaign”, to promote early detection measures among people with lung cancer and high-risk groups.
“Through the Knowing Lung Cancer campaign, we hope to be able to empower people with the knowledge on how cancer is treated and what it is like to live with the disease,” Dr Muhammad Azrif said.
The awareness campaign aimed to encourage those with lung cancer, high-risk groups, and their caregivers to discuss lung cancer more openly by utilising social media platforms to promote conversations around lung cancer for early detection and its timely treatment.
“Through this campaign, we hope to encourage more conversations between high-risk groups and their general practitioners (GPs), as primary care doctors have an important role in helping high risk groups or people with lung cancer to be swiftly diagnosed and treated effectively,” Dr Anand said.
“There is an important need to talk about lung cancer more extensively in this country. Cancer is often perceived as a taboo subject and people are often frightened or embarrassed to talk about it openly. The sooner we change mindsets, we are able to build an informed society that is able to recognise the symptoms for early detection and timely treatment.”
The campaign will also address other issues that come with living with lung cancer, including the coping mechanism with a lung cancer diagnosis, mental health for lung cancer patients and their caregivers, as well as choosing the most suitable treatment for better quality of life.
NCSM president Dr Saunthari Somasundaram said emotional support for cancer patients is equally essential as the timely treatment.
“While early detection and timely treatment is important, those living with cancer must not forget about getting the emotional support that they need. Having a positive mentality is imperative and makes a difference to not only the survivor’s cancer journey, but also their caregivers,” said Dr Saunthari.
AstraZeneca, a research-based biopharmaceutical company and Roche, a Swiss multinational health care company, have also collaborated in this campaign to build a holistic ecosystem for patients that encompasses the entire lung cancer journey, starting from building awareness levels to management of lung cancer.
“We believe that a collaborative approach with different partners is essential to achieving this ambition and this multi-partnership is a step in this direction. We hope that the Knowing Lung Cancer campaign will empower more people to take charge of lung cancer through early screening and treatment,” said Dr Sanjeev Panchal, country president of AstraZeneca Malaysia.
Roche mentioned that the strategic partnership enables transformation in patients’ lives and develops innovations for the future.
“This campaign is indeed a meaningful collaboration, as every one of us has a role to play in increasing lung cancer awareness and highlighting the need for early detection and right treatment in a timely manner for better patient outcomes, which is in line with our purpose at Roche,” said Dr Charles Li, medical director at Roche Malaysia.