Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – As part of the Philips multi-year global Breast Cancer Awareness campaign, Royal Philips Electronics (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA) is partnering with the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) to raise awareness and educate communities about breast cancer. The Best Breast Cancer Screening and Awareness Competition also aim to focus on prevention through lifestyle modifications and will involve the underprivileged and / or inaccessible communities in the awareness program.
Breast cancer, one of the four most prominent non-communicable diseases, continues to be the most common type of ailment among women. The latest Health Ministry report, which gave statistics up to 2007, said 29 out of every 100,000 Malaysian women had breast cancer, making it the leading cause of mortality among women1. Over 3700 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, with the Chinese community being the worst affected followed by Malay and Indians. In addition, one of every 20 women is at risk of suffering breast cancer in her lifetime2.
Steps to Strengthen NCD Prevention and Control
NCDs are the biggest cause of death worldwide, causing more than 36 million deaths in 2008 - 60% of all deaths globally - with 80% in low- and middle-income countries. In effect, two of every three deaths in the world are on account of NCDs – rightly described by the WHO Director-General as “a slow motion disaster”. SEA also faces a NCD epidemic, which causes 2.5 million deaths annually and is responsible for 60 percent of deaths in the region. As the impact of NCDs increases, annual NCD deaths are projected to continue to rise worldwide.
As observed in many advanced developing countries, Malaysia is beginning to observe an epidemiological shift from communicable diseases to those related to lifestyle, particularly cancers and cardiovascular diseases (commonly known as non-communicable diseases). Over the past two decades, Malaysia has seen a steady increase in the number of deaths attributable to cancer among its population, and approximately 30,000 new cancer cases occur each year.
Encouraged by the global push for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCD), the Ministry of Health Malaysia has taken aggressive actions to further develop and increase the capacity of NGOs to play a more pro-active role, particularly in community-based NCD risk factor interventions.
The Ministry has also looked into both primary and secondary prevention of breast cancer in the planning for breast cancer prevention programs. The primary prevention includes increasing breast health awareness and promoting healthy lifestyle and lifestyle modification while secondary prevention includes early diagnosis and early treatment to prevent from complications.
Philips and NSCM recognize the scale of the challenge, as Malaysia prepares to meet the new reality of a rapidly increasing number of breast cancer patients. As the country moves in the midst of an unprecedented epidemiologic transition, it is essential in considering new and innovative solutions to raise awareness of early detections. Most recently, Philips’ inaugural ASEAN Healthcare Consultation brought together policymakers, patient groups, academics and healthcare providers in Malaysia to collaborate and find answers to key modern-day healthcare challenges in an aligned, international and sustained approach and take a holistic view of the challenges posed by NCDs. The session also considered the diverse drivers of their continued growth in the region and the challenges this growth poses to national health systems.
Low Awareness of Screening among Women in Malaysia
According to a study by the World Health Organisation, the recommended early detection strategies for low and middle-income countries are awareness of early signs and symptoms and screening by clinical breast examination in demonstration areas. The earlier a tumor is diagnosed, the greater the chances of survival. In high-income countries where the screening coverage is over 70 percent, mammograms can reduce breast cancer mortality by up to 20 to 30 percent of women aged over 50.
In breast cancer, although risk reductions can be achieved through prevention strategies, it cannot eliminate the majority of breast cancer especially in middle and low income countries where breast cancer is detected in later stages. Therefore, early detection strategies to provide better outcomes and survival remain a cornerstone in the breast cancer control.
In a community-based survey conducted by the Ministry of Health Malaysia among 59,903 women in Malaysia, breast self examination and clinical breast examination were reported to be performed by 34% and 31% of women above 20 years of age, respectively. While mammography, was only carried out in 3.8% of women aged 50 years and older (Narimah, 1997). A recent study among a group of educated Malaysian women found a lack of knowledge about risk factors, sign and symptoms of breast cancer (Hadi et al., 2010) 3.
Best Breast Cancer Screening and Awareness Competition in Malaysia
Philips and NCSM are calling upon local NGOs, government hospitals and/or institutions to submit proposals for new, innovative breast cancer screening awareness in Malaysia. On the basis of number of touch points and possible impact of their programs judged by experts from Philips, NCSM, and long-time breast cancer awareness supporter, Theresa Manavalan, the participant with the best suggestion will be awarded an amount of RM40,000 as funding to execute the program. The program will be closely monitored by Philips and NCSM.
“Breast cancer is a serious health threat across the world. At the same time, there are many organizations and hospitals that are tirelessly educating communities about breast cancer prevention and early detection. As a company devoted to health and well-being, we are committed to assisting these bodies in every way we can – be it in terms of domain expertise or resources. We are happy to be associated with NCSM who has been extremely aggressive in breast cancer awareness in the country in the past,” explains Naeem Shahab Khan, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Philips Group of Companies Malaysia.
“There is also a need to understand the importance of prevention through lifestyle modifications. Women especially should be educated to help fight cancer even at the earliest stage by detecting the breast cancer symptoms. It is time to call every individual to take breast cancer screening seriously.
Thus, Philips and NCSM are committed to deliver the message through the Best Breast Cancer Screening and Awareness Competition,” he adds.
Dr. Saunthari Somasundaram, President and Medical Director of NCSM says, “Cancer does not discriminate. It is also not just a health issue. It impacts individuals, families and communities on a social, economic and human rights platform. It is therefore only fitting that cancer is fought not only from the health front but by the community. This initiative gives the community the opportunity to join the fight and make a difference. It allows breast cancer awareness and control issues to be raised from common ground but from different perspectives.”
To find out more about the Best Breast Cancer Screening and Awareness Competition, organizations and individuals, please contact coordinating agency Fleishman-Hilllard at 03-2094 0760. All submissions need to reach Fleishman-Hilllard by 13 March 2013.