Breast Cancer Awareness Month will end in a week. But financial toxicity, the costs of screening and treatment, worsening quality of life and cancer-related stress will go on.
This is not about throwing statistics around to frighten the government. I have consistently done that for years now.
it is time to hold the Malaysian government accountable for the right to life, access to affordable treatment and medicines, and ensure no woman ends up in financial destitution for choosing to take care of herself.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer, and affects 34.1 per cent of cancer-stricken women in Malaysia.
A total of 21,634 cases of female breast cancer were diagnosed for the period of 2012 to 2016, compared with 18,206 cases from 2007 to 2011.
According to the George Institute for Global Health, 51 per cent who spent 30 per cent of annual household income related to cancer care will be pushed into financial catastrophe a year from diagnosis.
The same report says that the financial toxicity resulting from the cost of cancer care caused them to skip medical appointments and avoid buying drugs they could not afford.
This will become worse due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as poverty is associated with higher cancer rates, cancer risk factors such as obesity, and the lack of access to cancer screening and treatment.
In Malaysia, 580,000 households have slipped into the B40 economic category due to the pandemic. JobStreet estimates two million Malaysians would end up unemployed.
I cannot emphasise enough the need for a National Cancer Fund in next year’s budget. However, the government needs to summon the political will to get this done.
Charles Santiago is the Member of Parliament for Klang.
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