Lifestyle diseases such as cancer reach epidemic levels in Malaysia

Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy treatment in a hospital. (Shutterstock image)
Updated 11 October 2018
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Lifestyle diseases such as cancer reach epidemic levels in Malaysia

  • Malaysia is approaching an “epidemiologic transition” where diseases related to lifestyle habits have progressively become more prevalent, health minister says
  • The study shows that early detection through scientific diagnosis is key to a higher survival rate among cancer patients

 

KUALA LUMPUR: Cancer has been found to be the second largest cause of death in the world — and the fourth largest common cause of death among Malaysians, according to the latest report released by the country’s Health Ministry.

The latest report titled “Malaysian Study on Cancer Survival (MySCan)” was published by the Malaysian National Cancer Registry under the ministry’s National Cancer Institute, in which it researched the five-year relative survival rate for 15 of the most common cancers in Malaysia between 2007 and 2011.

The report said that cancer was responsible for 12.6 percent of all deaths in government hospitals, and the figure rose to 26.7 percent in private hospitals.

The 72-page report revealed that there are about 37,000 newly diagnosed cases of cancer every year, and the number is estimated to rise to more than 55,000 by 2030. 

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad acknowledged that Malaysia is approaching an “epidemiologic transition” where diseases related to lifestyle habits, including cardiovascular diseases and cancers, have progressively become more prevalent.

Dr. Goh Kiam Seong, a medical doctor in one of the public hospitals in Malaysia, told Arab News that various factors can contribute to cancer. “The modern lifestyle, smoking, genetic factors, and environmental pollutions … all can contribute.

“Basically, the earlier the detection, the higher the survival rate.”

Cancer is the second largest cause of death in the world, leading to 8.8 million deaths in 2015.

The findings also showed that early detection through scientific diagnosis is key to a higher survival rate among cancer patients.

It found out that patients suffering from thyroid, prostate, corpus uteri, female breast and colon cancers have the highest survival rates at 82.3 percent, 73 percent, 70.56 percent, 66.8 percent and 56.8 percent respectively.

The most worrying cancers with the lowest five-year relative survival rate are pancreas (14 percent), heart (12.8 percent) and lung cancers (11 percent). 

MySCan also revealed genetic factors play into the survival rates for different types of cancer.

The research findings were based on 72,884 cases, involving 43,621 female and 29,263 male patients.

In the report’s introduction, Dzulkefly emphasised that “the Malaysian government recognized cancer as an important health concern among Malaysians... it is committed to cancer control and prevention strategies in reducing incidence, mortality and improving cancer survival.”

Goh said that cancer awareness was increasing among Malaysians and the government hospitals are receiving a lot of referrals nowadays from Malaysia’s public health clinics.

“We actually have health screening services in these health clinics, though not everyone is aware of it,” he said. 

Public health clinics are available for Malaysians and are heavily subsidized. Patients need to pay only RM1 ($0.25) for basic health services and screenings. 

 


Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

Updated 23 January 2019
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Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

  • Assurances given that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants
  • The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide

KABUL: The Afghan government has launched a polio vaccination program covering 5.4 million children in high-risk areas, officials said on Tuesday.

The one-month campaign to inoculate children under 5 years old started on Monday after assurances from tribal chiefs and clerics that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants, and that families will allow their kids to get the lifetime immunization, the officials said.

The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide. Among the reasons were health workers’ lack of access due to violence, and families preventing their children from being vaccinated because of the perception that it is hazardous to their health, said Waheed Mayar, chief spokesman for the Public Health Ministry.

Some vaccinators were killed by suspected militants in past years while touring villages. “This year, we’ve received assurances from villagers, tribal chiefs and clerics that they’ll make sure vaccinators are allowed (to do their work) as vaccination is essential for their children,” Mayar told Arab News.

High-risk areas include parts of western, southeast and central Afghanistan, the Public Health Ministry said.

“We will have five vaccination campaigns for the first half of 2019. We are using this time to build immunity among our people,” Public Health Minister Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz said in a statement.

“We need to work together to end polio for the world… We need to help each other, open our doors, get our children vaccinated,” he added.

“Our children are innocents and rely on us to protect them from preventable paralysis. We cannot let them down.”

Parents should plan to have their children at home and available to be vaccinated during the campaign, the ministry said.

“The polio vaccine is safe, even for sick and newborn children. It is very important these children get the vaccine because they have lower immunity, which makes them more susceptible to the virus,” the ministry added. “Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars.”