Cancer and the need for active state intervention

Charles Santiago

Modified 5 Feb 2017, 7:00 am

MP SPEAKS Last month, a 16-year-old girl came to see me. She hasn’t been to school in three years. She is forced to stay home and take care of her mother who has cervical cancer.

I keep hearing similar stories from many people who come to my service centre, requesting help.

Many of them saw their life savings vanish into thin air after paying for their medicine and related expenses.

Single mothers and poor families are stranded.

Cancer patients whom I have met say they are unable to find the money to treat themselves.

According to a report by the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, 39 percent of Malaysians simply cannot afford the treatment.

How can they when a complete treatment for breast cancer will cost the patient RM395,000, according to a study by iMoney?

According to the same report 19 percent quit their treatment.

The Health Ministry says 100,000 Malaysians suffer from cancer yearly while one in four Malaysians will get cancer by the age of 75.

But these figures are behind by a shocking six years.

The most current report from 2007-2011 by the National Cancer Registry states that a total of 103,507 new cases were diagnosed in the country.

Of that, 45.2 percent were reported in males. The risk of getting cancer is one in 10, and for women one in nine.

Today, it has become the third biggest killer in Malaysia.

But as these figures are good only up to 2011, the government’s policy to combat cancer is clearly outdated.

And that's because the Health Ministry does not have a system in place to compel all hospitals to report the number of cancer patients they have treated.

Three steps

Putrajaya is lagging behind in the battle against cancer and risks diving into a tailspin if it does not correct its failed health policy by deploying these three steps immediately.

First, it should centralise the National Cancer Patient Registry at the Health Ministry and ensure these figures are up-to-date. The cut in the ministry’s budget shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not get the job done.

Next, the goods and services tax (GST) on medicine and treatment ought to be revoked for all cancer patients.

Also, the government must place a ceiling on the prices of cancer medicine so that a new ‘cancer underclass’ is not formed in Malaysia.

There has to be a support system to prevent cancer patients and their families from being financially torn apart on top of the physical and emotional distress they have to endure.

As such let’s stand together with cancer patients and their families on World Cancer Day by making a commitment to rectify failed health policies and instead create an enabling environment for them.


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.