KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 — Due to the pandemic, fewer people with cancer are diagnosed early, increasing the risk of more cancers being diagnosed at an advanced stage when they are more difficult to treat.
Cancer, however, does not stop for Covid-19. For this reason, the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) and Lung Cancer Network Malaysia (LCNM) have partnered to launch the ‘New Normal, Same Cancer’ campaign with the support of AstraZeneca Malaysia to address the continued impact of the pandemic on cancer care, calling on people to act early and re-engage with appropriate health care screening.
Launched in conjunction with breast, lung and prostate cancer awareness months, the campaign was officiated by Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, deputy health minister, along with Dr Saunthari Somasundaram, president of NCSM, Dr Murallitharan Munisamy, managing director of NCSM, Dr Anand Sachithanandan, co-founder and president of LCNM, and Dr Sanjeev Panchal, country president of AstraZeneca Malaysia.
Cancer is a health concern among Malaysians especially since it is the second leading cause of death in the world and in Malaysia. According to a recently published research paper, there was a drastic drop of 74 per cent in cancer diagnosis, with doctors sharing that they experienced delays in follow-up for screening, check-ups and treatment with cancer patients and high-risk groups.
With drastic drops in diagnosis rates and fewer people being screened, the three partners have collaborated to raise awareness amongst the population of patients who have missed out on diagnosis and treatment.
Apart from providing education to the public on proper cancer care through social media and the campaign’s microsite, the campaign aims to bring patients back to care in this new normal by providing screening vouchers and consultation on breast, lung and prostate cancers from participating hospitals nationwide.
“Covid-19 can take lives, and so can cancer. For the past one and a half years, cancer care has taken a dip as the health care system has been overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases,” said Dr Saunthari.
“Cancer is a silent killer and unbeknownst to people, it may be affecting them at this very moment. As we progress towards the new normal, we cannot ignore the elephant in the room, which is cancer. A late cancer diagnosis lowers one’s chance of survival and increases the cost of treatment and care. We need to amplify the importance of early detection, and our time to act is now,” she added.
According to Dr. Saunthari, this campaign aims to achieve three goals: raising cancer awareness amongst the public, highlighting the importance of early detection, and encouraging people to go for screening.
“Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers with the lowest survival rate in Malaysia as the vast majority are detected too late in stages 3 and 4. If detected early, it is a curable disease with good outcomes. The Covid-19 outbreak and restrictions has worsened the situation with further delays and disruptions to scheduled check-ups and cancer screening, resulting in more late-stage diagnosis,” said Dr Anand.
“We understand the public’s reticence to come for cancer screening during the pandemic. For this reason, LCNM is pleased to be part of this campaign to heighten awareness that lung cancer screening for ‘at-risk’ individuals can be done safely with the necessary precautions in place. Our collective aim is to achieve stage shift and detect more early-stage disease which can be treated more effectively,” he explained.
“At AstraZeneca, we are committed to go beyond the pill with innovative solutions to improve patient outcomes. An aspect of this includes patient education and public-private partnerships to drive early diagnosis for disease prevention. The New Normal, Same Cancer campaign is a global initiative since 2020 in which we have worked with professional organisations in several countries to bring cancer patients back to health care,” said Dr Sanjeev.
“The partnership with NCSM and LCNM helps to ensure progress is made in cancer treatment and survival is not reversed. In line with the country’s transition to the endemic phase, we aim to inspire early action, encouraging people not to wait to contact their doctor if they have any cancer signs and symptoms,” he added.
Delays in cancer screening and diagnosis have resulted in a delay in patients receiving effective treatments. Research highlights that any interruption to the cancer care pathway can be detrimental to patient outcomes, so it is critical that people return to seek cancer care.
To encourage patients and the public to continue their scheduled treatments and early screening, screening vouchers can be downloaded from the campaign’s microsite.
For added convenience, bookings for screening can be done at 18 participating hospitals across various regions of Malaysia.
For more information on the ‘New Normal, Same Cancer’ campaign and screening vouchers, please click here.
List Of Participating Hospitals
Bagan Specialist Centre
Borneo Medical Centre
Darul Makmur Medical Centre
Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur
KPJ Puteri Specialist Hospital
Mahkota Medical Centre
National Cancer Society Malaysia Cancer & Health Screening Clinic
Nilai Medical Centre
Pantai Hospital Ayer Keroh
Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur
Penang Adventist Hospital
Putra Medical Centre Alor Setar
Putra Specialist Hospital Melaka
SALAM Specialist Hospital Kuala Terengganu
Sri Kota Specialist Medical Centre
Subang Jaya Medical Centre
Sunway Medical Centre