Most Malaysians discover their cancer too late – and their first choice of treatment is faith healers: Health Minister

The lifetime risk of developing cancer for Malaysians is about 10%.
Berita Harian

Most Malaysians don’t realise they have cancer until it’s too late – and even then, they turn to divine prayers to cure themselves, the country’s Health Minister has revealed.

According to Bernama, Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said at a press conference on World Cancer Day (Feb 4) that Malaysians’ “strong preponderance and belief towards alternative treatments” was one of main barriers preventing the health system from better assisting cancer patients.

He added that patients often sought out traditional healing methods, such as faith healers, as their first choice of treatment upon diagnosis of the condition, only seeking medical attention when these methods failed to produce results.

According to a Ministry of Health (MOH) report, in 2018, cancer made up the fourth largest cause of death in government hospitals – and the main cause of death in private hospitals.

The disease contributed to 11.82 per cent of all deaths in government hospitals and 30.11 per cent of all deaths in private hospitals, it added.

The MOH found in its assessment of citizens between 2012 and 2016 that the lifetime risk of developing cancer for Malaysian men and women was 10 per cent and 10.8 per cent respectively.

Bernama quoted the minister as saying that early detection and prompt treatment could improve chances of recovery from cancer, but unfortunately, late detection was common in cancer patients across the country.

Based on the National Cancer Registry Report, the number of detected late-stage cancer cases increased from 58.7 per cent in 2001 to 2011, to 63.7 per cent for 2012 to 2016.

The report also stated that the most common forms of cancer were breast (19 per cent), colorectal (13.5 per cent) and lung cancer (9.8 per cent).

For men, the most common cancer was colorectal cancer (14.8 per cent), while breast cancer (34.1 per cent) was the most common among women.

Bernama added that the Health Ministry is targeting to increase the number of oncologists in Malaysia from the current 114, with 52 new specialists produced every year.

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