From 2007 to 2011, a total number of 103,507 new cancer cases were diagnosed in Malaysia and a total of 64,275 medically certified and non-medically certified cancer deaths were reported by the National Registration Department.
In order to raise awareness on the importance of early detection and cancer treatment especially during the Covid-19 outbreak, Beacon Hospital has launched the ‘Cancer Won’t Wait’ campaign
“Earlier detection increases the chances of early treatment initiation to have the best chance of cure which usually means less complicated treatments. Covid-19 is the disease in the modern era that has disrupted cancer services as fears over the virus turned people away from medical visits and treatments,” Beacon Hospital’s Consultant Medical Oncologist, Dr. Azura Rozila Ahmad tells BusinessToday.
Anyone with worrying symptoms should not delay or avoid a doctor visit, she says, especially older individuals above the age of 60 years old.
Delaying Is Worrying
Unexplained fatigue, loss of appetite, drenching night sweats and pain especially if persisting, worsening or unexplained are common signs and symptoms of cancer in both men and women that everyone should be aware of.
“Cancer is a disease of uncontrolled growth of malignant cells which can spread. Therefore, treatment is time-sensitive and is an important factor for treatment success,” Dr. Azura says.
She also highlights that symptoms are possible ways on how the body is signalling a possible injury, illness, or disease, and awareness of possible cancer for us to get earlier medical attention.
Despite that, there are patients coming in with advanced stages of cancer in Malaysia.
An example provided by her is that a delay in treatment of aggressive cancer can be catastrophic and any changes in a treatment plans may also reduce the effectiveness of treatment, influencing an unfavourable outcome for the patient.
“A cancer treatment approach is quite different compared to treatments of other common diseases such as treating infection or diabetes.
For well controlled or stable disease conditions, it may be possible to adjust their treatments or schedules to reduce hospital visits during the outbreak,” Dr. Azura adds.
Covid-19 And Cancer Treatment
In a commentary on John Hopkins Medicine’s website, Dr. Panagis Galiastatos of John Hopkins Bayview Medical Centre explains that Covid-19 can cause lung complications such as pneumonia and, in the most severe cases, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
However, Covid-19 is not just the sore source for the lung infection as Dr. Azuara adds that prolonged smoking causes chronic inflammation which not only damages the lung tissue but can also turn cells to become cancerous due to the numerous pro-cancer chemicals [carcinogens] contained in cigarette smoke.
Related to lung infections, people who are receiving treatment for cancer, and those living with metastatic cancer and at an increased risk of getting sick from Covid-19 based on a study by the United States’ (US) National Cancer Institute (NIH).
However, Dr. Azura opposes the statement that those who are undergoing active cancer treatment do not necessarily have an increased risk of contracting Covid-19.
“In the absence of any symptoms or signs of Covid-19 infection, continuing your cancer treatment is likely to be the best course of action.
Be mindful of claims and information on social media or the internet, which is overloaded with misinformation. Check if the information is from trusted sources and authorities such WHO or the Ministry of Health,” she stresses.
“Depending on the type of cancer and treatment, people with cancer who have been infected with Covid-19 may still be able to undergo cancer treatment as the risk of virus reactivation virus is low,” she adds.
There is limited evidence available to suggest that any cancer treatments raise the risk of getting Covid-19 and having a history of cancer is still unknown to increase the chances of getting the virus according to NIH’s study.
Beacon Of Hope
Dr. Azura explains that when dealing with a serious disease like cancer, patients will want to have confidence in the treatment options they are presented with.
“Obtaining a second opinion helps you feel confident that you are receiving the right treatment. It may reveal additional treatment options for your type and stage of cancer, including new or experimental treatment options.
It is entirely normal to think about seeking another specialist‘s opinion and most doctors understand this,” she tells BusinessToday.
Beacon Hospital’s approach to raise awareness on cancer is to provide comprehensive care amid the outbreak as well as optimal cancer care efforts during the Covid-19 outbreak to encourage people to continue their medical visits and follow-ups.
The Hospital have also implemented several stringent Covid-19 preventive measures including mandatory entrance screening, visitation restrictions, comprehensive sanitisation, and comprehend standard operating procedures (SOPs)
Beacon hospital will continue to adapt risk-assessment protocols based on guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the District Public Health Department.
“As Covid-19 is a continually evolving situation, our Covid-19 taskforce team will continue to monitor the changing trends and will amend our SOPs accordingly to ensure the highest level of safety to all,” Dr. Azura concludes.