Recently, Philips Malaysia spoke to prominent oncologist Dato’ Dr Mohamed Ibrahim Abdul Wahid of Beacon Hospital on the latest cancer-related issues and challenges faced by Malaysians and the healthcare system on the whole. It’s important to take these cancer insights into consideration when you are healthy, too, because everyone can become a patient, caught in the cogs and gears of the medical world. Getting the right information at the right moment makes a difference, as the latest insights can have an impact on factors as diverse as personal lifestyle choices and policymaking.
“Early detection and screening is important when it comes to cancer cases but the challenge in Malaysia is what policy you should implement to ease the process of screening and detection. What’s more important is the positive steps you take to ensure patients go for screening. In Malaysia, health screenings are still done on a voluntary basis. No one encourages you or guides you on where or when to go or tells you what to do. Thus, there is poor uptake of early detection in the country,” said Dr Ibrahim.
He said in countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, general practitioners play a complementary role to specialists in screening citizens. In Australia, GPs refer patients to specialists if required, and after making an assessment, the specialists then decide whether to return a patient to the GP for ongoing treatment or recommend a procedure4.
“The next challenge is limitation of resources. If you want to do a mammogram screening in Malaysia, you can’t just walk into any public hospital to do the test, and in the private sector you have to pay for it and not everybody can afford it,” Dr Ibrahim added.
Dr Ibrahim also lists the cost of cancer drugs as a challenge faced by Malaysia. He believes that the government should play an important role in negotiating drug prices. “In some countries like Australia, South Korea and India, the government steps in and negotiates. Countries like the United Kingdom also have bodies like the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which advises on the affordability rate for medicines,” he said.
Nevertheless, Dr Ibrahim notes that private hospitals such as the Beacon Hospital has Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds for cancer patients who are unable to afford treatment and drugs. “At Beacon Hospital, we have our own CSR fund comprising donations that helps patients who can’t afford certain drugs, such as those that cost about RM9,000 per dose. With the help of our CSR fund, patients only have to pay RM2,500 for the same dose. Similarly, for chemotherapy, while it costs between RM4,000 to RM6,000 per session, we are able to offer patients a flat fee of RM500.” Dr Ibrahim believes it will be very helpful if there is a centralised fund, helping more patients access expensive drugs and treatments.
For this year, Dr Ibrahim predicts that cancer cases will definitely increase due to Malaysians’ lifestyle including our diet, smoking habit and many other factors. “On a positive note, patients’ treatment outcomes have seen a huge improvement across the industry as we now have better treatment equipment thanks to technology and drugs development. For example, back in 1990, the survival period for lung cancer patients is about 3 months, while today, Stage 4 lung cancer patients can survive for a minimum of 1-2 years. Some can even survive more than 5 years,” said Dr Ibrahim.
As cancer incidence and related healthcare costs continue to grow, there is a big need to diagnose and treat patients in efficient settings with a focus on the best care. Philips helps in making this possible with tools and services for accurate first-time-right decision-making imaging and fast supporting right decision-making tools to enable targeted, patient-specific therapy.
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