Cancer patients too timid in demanding treatment, says breast surgeon

04-Oct-2018 Intellasia | Malay Mail | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A breast surgeon has called for stronger advocacy by cancer patients for access to care, especially since women with breast cancer often presented their disease at a late stage.

Ramsay Sime Darby Health Care consultant breast surgeon Datuk Dr Yip Cheng Har cited a 2015 study published in Nature Scientific Reports that found the median survival of patients with initial metastatic breast cancer, or stage 4 breast cancer, in Malaysia and Singapore rose from 14 months to 21 months between 1996 and 2010, largely attributed to improved treatment administration.

“Treatment is the most important factor to improve survival,” Dr Yip told Malay Mail in an interview on the sidelines of the World Cancer Congress at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here yesterday.

“Cancer patients are a bit too timid here. They don’t want to go out to the world and tell everybody ‘I’ve got cancer’,” she added.

She noted that even though breast cancer was a “high society” disease as it was more common among high-income earners, some influential people suffering from cancer refused to come forward because of stigma.

The University of Malaya professor emeritus said cancer patients in Malaysia currently focused on peer support rather than advocacy, but urged them to “fight for your share of the pot.”

She said breast cancer survival rates in Malaysia have improved from 50 per cent for five-year survival to 58 per cent based on the National Cancer Registry from 2005 to 2011, according to data by the National Cancer Institute.

“If you’re in a private hospital and if you have money, of course, you’ll live longer. But when you run out of money and you stop treatment, your survival is not going to be so good,” she added.

When asked if cancer advocacy should be as strong as the HIV lobby, Dr Yip said there were many types of cancer and their causes, particularly breast cancer, remains unknown, unlike HIV.

“The treatment of cancer is a lot more difficult than the treatment of HIV. HIV has such a strong lobby that they have such good treatments now,” she said, noting that the HIV lobby could obtain generic treatments very quickly.

Dr Yip also told a session at the World Cancer Congress that a cancer centre in Malaysia, which collected RM1 million from patients to support treatment, refused to assist her patient because she had advanced breast cancer.

“My patient, who needed targeted therapy, she was told it’s not for metastatic breast cancer; it’s only for early stage breast cancer. The perception with metastatic breast cancer is you’re not curable. That’s why advocacy is important,” she said.


Category: Malaysia

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