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Cancer no longer a death sentence, says oncologist

Published on: Sunday, June 22, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Cancer is no longer a death sentence as it is now treatable provided the patient seeks early treatment, said Beacon International Specialist Centre Medical Director and Consultant Clinical Oncologist Dato' Dr Mohamed Ibrahim A. Wahid.

"But why many people still die of cancer? It's not because our technologies are not advanced but because of the lack of awareness among the society," he said.

"The average Malaysian with cancer coming in to seek treatment is when cancer has developed into stage two and about 30 to 40 per cent of patients will seek treatment after their cancer has reached stage three or four," he said.

"The survival rate for patients with stage one cancer is 100 per cent compared to only 20 per cent for those with stage four cancer," he said.

Based on a study, Malays would come in for treatment after reaching stage three of their cancer, as they would usually opt for traditional treatment, said Mohamed.

"Chinese and Indians would usually consult their doctors at stage one or two of their cancer," he said, adding this is probably due to awareness among these groups of people.

Mohamed said this during a talk on breast cancer as well as cancer in general and its treatment to about 200 individuals, a programme organised by the Kinabalu Pink Ribbon, at Promenade Hotel, here, on Friday night.

He explained that the common cancers among men are colon, prostate and lung whereas for women, colon, cervix and breasts.

The most common cancers, according to him, are breasts, cervix, head and neck, liver, stomach and lung.

Breast cancer, according to him, is the number one cancer in Malaysia and there are about 30,000 to 40,000 cancer cases with 200 cancer patients among the 100,000 population in Malaysia generally.

"Usually breast cancer patients would have the disease spread to their brain, liver and bones through lymph nodes. Therefore, it is important for the lymph nodes to be removed through surgery to avoid the spread of the cancer cells to other organs," he said.

"Women found to have lumps on their breasts, which are not painful, would usually not consult doctors due to fear and prefer to take traditional medicines," he explained.

"One in 19 women in Malaysia acquires the risk of getting breast cancer whereas one in every eight women gets breast cancer. However, in United States, the average of the size for breast cancer is only two centimetres and in Malaysia the size would reach up to four centimetres," he said.

Patients nowadays have a lot of choices in getting their cancer treated, for example, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone treatment for breast cancer, cyberknife and surgery, he said.

"Surgery would usually be the main treatment and most people are afraid of being treated through chemotherapy due to its side effects, but they should understand that we do have medications to prevent nausea," he explained.

The radiotherapy treatment, according to him, consists of high energy of x-ray, which is usually used for patients with inactive cancer.

"Often, doctors would advise patients to undergo surgery, followed by the chemotherapy treatment.

This is known as adjutant chemotherapy," he said.

Mohamed explained that tumour is divided into two types, namely, benign and cancerous.

"The benign tumour will not spread but the cancerous tumour will grow fast and spread to other organs, damaging all the cells. In this case, every sign of spread, we will have to remove the lymph nodes," he said.