Cancer has been found to be the fourth most common cause of death in Malaysia, the Health Ministry has said in its latest report called the Malaysian Study on Cancer Survival (MySCan).
It was revealed that cancer is responsible for 12.6 per cent of all deaths in government hospital — but the rate was more than doubled in private hospitals, at 26.7 per cent.
In addition, there are approximately 37,000 newly-diagnosed cases of cancer every year, and the number is estimated to rise to more than 55,000 cases by 2030.
Back in 2016, the Health Ministry had listed the top three principal causes of deaths in public hospitals as circulatory system diseases, respiratory system diseases, and several infectious and parasitic diseases.
This latest report, published by the Malaysian National Cancer Registry (MNCR) under the Ministry’s National Cancer Institute, focused on the findings of five-year relative survival for 15 of the most common cancers in Malaysia.
They are: lung, trachea and bronchus, female breast, colorectal, nasopharynx, prostate, brain and nervous systems, stomach, liver, cervix uteri, ovary, corpus uteri, thyroid, pancreas, leukaemia and lymphoma.
Collectively, these 15 cancers accounted for around three-quarters of the estimated number of patients diagnosed with cancer in Malaysia for the period between 2007 and 2011.
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 became more prevalent.
“The government recognises cancer as an important health concern among Malaysians. The ministry is committed in cancer control and prevention strategies in reducing incidence, mortality and improving cancer survival,” he said in the report’s introduction.
According to the MNCR, between 2007 and 2011, cancer incidences in Malaysia involving males number 86.9 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 99.3 cases involving females.
Dzulkefly added that the MySCan report, which is Malaysia’s first ever population-based study, would be a stepping stone for the initiation of cancer survival surveillance system in the country.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah seconded this, adding that survival data on cancer have long been recognised globally as crucial for monitoring the effectiveness of cancer control program.
“This would provide valuable information on population-based of survival to guide policymakers, public health professionals and clinicians to move forward in formulating better cancer control strategies,” he said in his foreword.
The study focused on Malaysian citizens and residents who were diagnosed from January 1, 2007 until December 31, 2011, with follow-ups up to December 31, 2016.
It was conducted on 72,884 cases, involving 43,621 female and 29,263 male patients.
The 72-page report revealed, among others, that patients of thyroid, prostate, corpus uteri, female breast and colon cancers have the highest survival rates at 82.3 per cent, 73 per cent, 70.56 per cent, 66.8 per cent and 56.8 per cent respectively.
It also said that the most “worrying cancer” was the lung, trachea and bronchus cancer with only 11 per cent relative survival rate. This means, close to nine out of 10 patients would not survive the next five years after being diagnosed.
MySCan also revealed that different ethnic groups in Malaysia have higher survival rates for different types of cancers.
Ethnic Indians had higher survivals for most of the fifteen cancers such as thyroid, corpus uteri, colorectal, pancreas, lung, trachea and bronchus, leukaemia and lymphoma.
Malays, on the other hand, had the highest survival in ovarian, brain and nervous system, and stomach cancers, while the ethnic Chinese had the highest survival in prostate, female breast, cervix uteri and nasopharynx cancers.