Understanding the Prevalence of Cancer

Follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter

Listen On Goodpods

By June Ramli

Research shows that approximately 49,000 people in Malaysia were estimated to be newly diagnosed with cancer in 2020, and the number is expected to rise to 66,000 new cases annually by 2030.
Experts in the field of health say that the current lifestyle choices and bad eating habits of young Malaysians are contributing to the rise in cancer rates.
The National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) recently discovered that 20,000 cases are discovered annually, with patients ranging in age from 20 to 30 on average.
Research shows that in young adults, the more prevalent cancer types found are breast, colon, esophagus, gallbladder, kidney, liver, pancreas, prostate, stomach and thyroid cancers.
In this exclusive interview with DailyStraits.com, Dr. Jenson Sow, Clinical Oncology of Aurelius Hospital Nilai discusses the urgency of understanding the prevalence of cancer among young Malaysians and what can we can do as a society to curb the numbers from rising.

What are the more common cancer types you are seeing in young Malaysians today?

According to the Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report 2012 – 2016, the five most common cancers in Malaysia are breast cancer, followed by colorectal cancer, lung cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, and prostate cancer.
Research shows that in men (25 years of age and above), colorectal cancer was the most common cancer followed by lung cancer. Among women (25 – 59 years of age), breast cancer followed by colorectal and cervical cancer were the most common cancer sites.

What are the common causes for cancer in young Malaysians?

There is no definite cause for cancer, as cancer is a disease where some of the cells in our body grow beyond their usual boundaries and spread to other parts of the body. Some key risk factors may include:

Family history, genetics, inheritance – Some are at higher risk of developing a certain type of cancer when they inherit a faulty gene and more likely to develop cancer at a younger age.

Sedentary lifestyle – Urban lifestyle has also led to significant health and lifestyle changes. Smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and processed food, physical inactivity, as well as lack of key nutrients in everyday meals such as vitamins are key risk factors. Unhealthy diets can lead to obesity, which is often associated with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer.

AgePeople are at higher risk of cancer as they age. Just like the wear and tear of a car, the cells in our body can get damaged over time. While it’s more commonly diagnosed in older adults, we learn that cancer does not discriminate. According to National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM), there were more new cancer patients aged between their late 20s and early 30s in the past two years. 

Environmental exposures – Exposure to the environment may also contribute to risk of developing cancer. For example, chemicals in tobacco smoke, radiation, and ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are all known to contribute to this disease.

What are the available treatments and preventive measures young Malaysians can take to combat cancer? 

The best preventive measure is to go for regular health screenings. Not all cancers are associated with pain in the early presentation, but often when a cancer becomes more advanced, pain is one of the signs for cancer. For example, breast lumps felt during self-examination are often not tender but warrant a medical consult as it could be suspicious. Colon cancer screening programs are also available to detect precancerous lesions before it turns malignant. Another would be Pap Smear among sexually active women as early as age 20 years old. Early detection is key as most of the time, patients tend to ignore the pain and when detected, they are already at a late stage. 
Those who have been diagnosed with cancer should remain hopeful and positive as treatments are plentiful. For example, cancer therapy now comes in many different forms. Earlier, it was predominantly given intravenously, which remains relevant until now. However, today cancer therapy is more targeted. The therapy can also be taken orally which can be more convenient for the patient. Using this method, patients are only required to come to the clinic for a doctor’s consultation and collect medications.
Nevertheless, despite being more targeted, there are still side effects that need to be discussed with the Oncologist for further details. The side effects are often manageable if we anticipate it early. In Aurelius, we have the radiation therapy known as the linear accelerator (LINAC). This treatment aims radiation at cancer tumors with pinpoint accuracy, destroying cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue. It could be used as a curative intent meant for cure or to control the disease from getting worse. Radiation therapy takes up different forms which are delivered via an advanced machine. One form of radiation is called the linear accelerator whereby the machine generates EM waves that are strong enough to target a cancer lesion. 
The newer machines can execute each treatment with high precision. “Brachy”-therapy is another form of radiation that is delivered near the tumor. 
There are also “seed” implant procedures whereby seeds that contain a short half live radiation source are placed at specific targets to kill cancer cells. The unique aspect of brachytherapy is, the source is delivered near the tumor, making it more precise, safer and contains less side effects to surrounding normal tissue. 
Although there are many advancements in treating cancers. It is still vital for Malaysians to kickstart a healthy lifestyle and quit bad habits. 
Education is also key in educating the general about the signs and symptoms of common cancers especially among young Malaysians, as cancers can occur at any age.

Why is cancer screening important?

Cancer cases that are detected early with proper management can result in a high chance of survival. Majority of cancer patients encounter financial catastrophe during the first year of diagnosis itself. Generally, the cost of treatment is much lower when cancer is detected in the early stage. 
Extreme weight loss in a short period coupled with symptoms like loss of appetite, could be a sign of cancer, unless evaluated otherwise. In the case of colon cancer, patients will have a change in their bowel movements, blood on their stool and in some extreme cases, severe abdominal pain at a later stage due to intestinal obstruction. However, women who experience postmenopausal or post coital bleeding should check with their respective gynecologists to determine the underlying causes.
We want to encourage Malaysians to be more health-conscious and actively act and to get screened before it’s too late.
While regular screenings can help detect abnormal tissue or cancer early, it is important to ensure that screening facilities are easily accessible and can be done on a larger scale for all Malaysian citizens in the country.
It is important to consult a doctor when there are abnormalities or changes in the body and get the right treatment before it’s too late.

What are some of the impact of cancer on young Malaysians?

Cancer can affect patients physically, mentally, emotionally, or socially. There could be barriers and limitations in performing simple everyday tasks due to pain and emotional distress.
For younger patients who are at the golden age of youth, they want to enjoy outdoor activities and do what normal young people would do. Survivors also experience cognitive impairment such as problems with memory, thinking and concentration due to the side effects from treatments.
Some cancers may cause physical change to the body. For example, surgeries that remove physical body parts to treat or prevent cancers such as mastectomy (removal of a breast) or orchidectomy (removal of the testes). Chemotherapy treatments can cause changes to our physical appearance such as hair loss or skin and nail problems.
These sudden changes to their appearance may cause patients to feel shame and discomfort, which could result in a loss of confidence. Those that are emotionally impacted may choose to shut themselves out from family and friends. This may cause serious mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
The ‘C’ word often brings fear and patients tend to only expect the worst.
However, not all hope is lost. Patients can find new routines, maintain a healthy lifestyle, seek support from survivors and go for regular treatments. We see many cancer survivors who lead a new life and empower other cancer patients to cope with their disease.

Editor’s Note: You can now download our app on the Google Play Store or the Apple Store, or write your next best-selling novel with our sister app Toolis, available on the Apple Store and Google Play Store or purchase something from us at www.tapiroo.com, yayaezzy.com or at lazybumskincare.com.au.
We are happy to note that we are also now on Amazon Australia. Purchase our products as a show of support to us. They are Yaya, Ezzy, Tante June and Xeno backpacks or our beauty products such as LazyBum Skincare Facial Cleanser, LazyBum Skincare Toner and Moisturiser and Blitz Hair Oil Spray.Also, check out our rate card and media kit here if you would like to advertise with us on this website. Thank you!

Success! You're on the list.

Like What You Read

Howdy! Thanks for dropping by and reading our stuff. DailyStraits.com is an independent website that covers all things business and entrepreneurship related. If you like what you read, a little donation from your good self will go a long way in helping us run this site successfully. Thank you!


Leave a Reply