In a move towards closing the care gap and improving the survival rates among breast cancer patients, the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH), represented by Hospital Tuanku Jaafar (HTJ), has announced the renewal of the collaborative work and plans to upgrade the Pink Ribbon Centre to a new space. The development of the new Pink Ribbon Centre will expand its capacity to be a one-stop centre, providing patient-centred care to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients through a highly competent, dedicated team comprising members from both the Ministry of Health and Cancer Research Malaysia (CRMY).
Breast cancer, though increasingly curable, presents a daunting challenge for patients, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Despite subsidised treatments available at Ministry of Health hospitals, the financial burden of non-medical costs, and coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming.
Dato’ Dr. Imi Sairi Ab Hadi, MOH Lead Person in Hospital-Based Navigation, said, “Even though breast cancer is one of the most curable cancers, sadly, improvements in survival have made a greater impact among high-income patients compared to those with low income. Through the partnership with CRMY, we hope to address this gap and serve more lower-income breast cancer patients through the Patient Navigation Programme.”
To reaffirm their commitment to this vital cause, an official MOU-signing ceremony took place at HTJ recently. Dignitaries present included Yang Amat Mulia Tunku Ali Redhauddin ibni Tuanku Muhriz, Chairman of Cancer Research Malaysia; Dato’ Dr. Harlina Bt. Abdul Rashid, Negeri Sembilan Health Director Darul Khusus; Dato’ Dr. Zaleha Md Noor, Tuanku Jaafar Hospital Director; Dato’ Dr. Imi Sairi Ab Hadi, MOH Lead Person in Hospital-Based Navigation; Dr. Mazwela bt Mohamad, Surgeon in Charge of PRC at HTJ; and Professor Datin Paduka Dr. Teo Soo Hwang, Chief Scientific Officer of Cancer Research Malaysia.
Dr. Zaleha said in her speech, “the establishment of the Pink Ribbon Centre (PRC) at Hospital Tuanku Jaafar has led to a significant rise in the number of breast cancer patients, with an annual increase to 180 to 185 patients. This increase can be attributed to the awareness campaigns and discussions about PRC that have been conducted in health clinics since 2019. As a result, the PRC at our hospital now receives referral cases from all corners of Negeri Sembilan at an accelerated pace.”
Chairman of CRMY Board of Trustees YAM Tunku Ali highlighted, “whilst our scientists have led important studies in Asian breast cancer patients which have enabled Malaysians to access new treatment options, we are also mindful that there is a very significant gap in breast cancer survival rates based on socio-economic status. As such, we are working with the Ministry of Health through research programmes such as our patient navigation programme, which is aimed at improving survival rates as well as quality of life, for lower income patients.”
Prof Teo emphasised, “Over the past few decades, breast cancer awareness campaigns have led to greater awareness and less fear of breast cancer in urban areas, but there remain challenges in lower income communities. Working together with the MOH, we have created a system that tracks patients and navigates them through the complex treatment journey. We are pleased to report that with the commitment and dedication of the doctors and nurses at the Ministry of Health and the navigators at CRMY, we have been able to create a new way to help patients overcome various obstacles, including limited awareness, delayed diagnoses, restricted access to quality care, and a reliance on alternative treatments.”