Malaysia’s First Digital Lung Cancer Patient Guide Launched

Lung Cancer Network Malaysia introduces Malaysia’s first-ever digital lung cancer patient guide, to provide an up-to-date guide for patients and their loved ones.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — Lung Cancer Network Malaysia (LCNM) and the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM), supported by Pfizer, recently announced the launch of Malaysia’s first-ever digital lung cancer patient guide to empower society-at-large with the knowledge to recognise early warning signs and symptoms, understand indications for screening, make informed choices, as well as counter stigma and misconceptions about the disease and its treatments.

Launched in conjunction with Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November, the patient guide was developed as a digital resource to improve health literacy on lung cancer among Malaysians as well as to facilitate better communication between patients and their healthcare providers.

Available in Bahasa Malaysia, English, and Chinese, the patient guide includes easy-to-understand information about lung cancer with ample illustrations to enhance comprehension.  

“A diagnosis of lung cancer is often unexpected and can be overwhelming. The vast volume of information available on the internet and social media these days can be confusing, daunting, and even misleading. In a recent survey conducted by LCNM, 88 per cent of respondents felt a lung cancer patient may have difficulty discussing their condition or feel lost and worried upon learning their diagnosis, whilst 61 per cent acknowledged that poor awareness of the disease and available treatment options was a barrier to seeking early effective intervention1,” said Dr Anand Sachithanandan, LCNM president and consultant cardiothoracic surgeon.

“To that end, we hope this guide will serve as a practical, easy-to-use clinical guide for anyone with a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of lung cancer. It provides comprehensive information in a clear and concise manner to help patients and their loved ones better navigate this cancer ‘journey’ of screening, diagnosis, staging, treatment and surveillance,” he added.

“The guide addresses common questions, misconceptions and concerns people often have upon diagnosis. The treatment landscape for lung cancer is rapidly changing, for the better. Optimal outcomes are best achieved often with a combination of different therapies including surgery. We hope this guide will help demystify the disease and empower patients to make informed decisions and appropriate choices on their cancer journey, with guidance from their doctor,” he explained.

Echoing the sentiment, Dr Murallitharan Munisamy, NCSM managing director said that the patient guide was also developed to help patients and their loved ones communicate with their healthcare providers.

“At NCSM, we understand that patients need a supportive relationship with their physician who is attentive to their needs and whom they can trust. This patient guide serves as a tool to help facilitate better patient-physician conversations and shared decision-making. A well-informed patient can actively participate in the decision-making process about their care, and better articulate information on their disease, care and support, which is key to patient-centred care and better patient outcomes,” he said.

Assessing And Addressing Knowledge Gaps About Lung Cancer In Malaysia

In addition to the patient guide, the #KeepBreathing campaign by LCNM and Pfizer continues its efforts in closing the knowledge gap about lung cancer and rally Malaysians to change the way we discuss the disease, humanise the experience and ultimately, reduce lung cancer stigma.

In September 2021, LCNM conducted an online survey to examine health literacy levels among Malaysians regarding their knowledge about lung cancer, behavioural patterns concerning healthcare choices, and their perceptions of the disease. The survey was supported by Pfizer Malaysia.

The survey findings revealed that many people had the misunderstanding that lung cancer is only a smoker’s disease, with 70 per cent of survey respondents believe that non-smokers are not at risk of acquiring lung cancer.

More than half of the survey respondents (63 per cent) have the misconception that young people are not at risk of developing lung cancer. Meanwhile, only one in three survey respondents (31 per cent) are aware that someone with a family history of lung cancer may be more prone to developing the disease.

While smoking is a major risk factor for lung cancer, the disease also affects people who have never smoked, with studies highlighting an increasing trend of lung cancer among non-smokers.

About 85 per cent of survey respondents are also unaware of the significant progress made in improving the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer, wrongly assuming that a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer is associated with poor survival or quality of life.

This is a troubling awareness gap amidst the declining rate of lung cancer screening and treatments due to the Covid-19 pandemic, indicating delayed diagnosis and treatment,.

“We undertook this survey to understand and address gaps in the lung cancer dialogue across a spectrum of respondents. The survey yielded results that not only help us realise where the misconceptions are but will also help inform what needs to be done. Raising public awareness that lung cancer can strike people who have never smoked, and former smokers who quit many years ago challenges negative stereotypes, and shifts blame away from the patient,” said Dr Tho Lye Mun, LCNM vice president and clinical oncologist.

The survey also discovered that doctors remain the primary or most trusted source of medical informatio. Dr Tho emphasised that lung cancer patients have more treatment options these days and a far greater chance of survival when detected early.

Innovations in lung cancer treatments mean people may live longer and with better quality of lives, even when their disease is advanced. 

“It is also important to draw the public’s attention to new advances in research and treatment to bring messages of hope and survival to the lung cancer community. Notably, many lung cancer patients continue to live well after their diagnosis owing to medical advances. One of the most exciting advances in lung cancer research is the development of new targeted therapies,” said Dr Tho.

“These are medicines directed to specific proteins that arise from mutations in the DNA of the tumour that make the cancer grow. Before, we used to treat lung cancer just as one disease. Nowadays, we realise that there are many different subgroups of lung cancer. This helps us to use treatments that are individualised for that particular person,” he added.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide and the third most common cancer in Malaysia. Almost 95 per cent of lung cancer patients are diagnosed with Stage Three or Four disease, further reinforcing the importance of lung cancer screening of at-risk individuals and timely treatment to avoid late-stage presentation of cases.

A study has shown an increase in lung cancer death rates along with a decrease in diagnosis, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

You may also like