1 in 4 breast cancer patients are in crisis, and they need your help

New data released by Cancer Research Malaysia’s Patient Navigation Programme (PNP) shows 25% of breast cancer patients were in crisis during COVID-19 and MCO.

1. What is PNP?

Late presentation and poor access to treatment is linked to half of the breast cancer deaths in Malaysia and Cancer Research Malaysia’s Patient Navigation Programme seeks to address this.

File photo of the PNP team based in Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah, Klang prior to the Movement Control Order (MCO)

Established as one-stop centres in collaboration with the Ministry of Health at public hospitals in Klang, Seremban, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, the programme provides women diagnosed with breast cancer, information and support services to ensure timely diagnosis and completion of their treatment.

However, with all four hospitals serving as major
COVID-19 referral centres since mid-March, there were concerns about how breast cancer patients were coping with treatment.

Through the survey, our PNP team managed to reach out to 211 breast cancer patients to find out more on the issues that were faced during the Movement Control Order (MCO).

2. What does the survey say? 

77% of the respondents have a monthly household income under RM3,000 (half of those have zero income or a monthly household income under RM980).

These were the main findings:

  • 25% of patients surveyed were assessed to be in crisis. Patients were 3 times more likely to be in crisis if they had a household income of <RM3,000 per month. Conversely, they were 5 times less likely to be in crisis if they had family members who were able to play the role of a carer
  • 46% of patients reported concern about attending hospital appointments, because of fear of infection
  • Among women in crisis, 87% were impacted emotionally, with 44% fearing infection and 19% worrying about their safety
  • 85% were impacted financially, with many worrying about how to make ends meet because of the financial impact of both a cancer diagnosis and COVID-19. This was of particular concern for the majority of patients in this group who had a household income of <RM3,000 per month
  • 65% lacked access to basic needs, mostly because of the financial impact of COVID-19, but also the fear of leaving the house to obtain provisions
  • 43% of women in crisis had logistical challenges and needed information on COVID-19

3. How did the PNP address this crisis?

In a recent media interview, Cancer Research Malaysia’s Chief Scientific Officer, Professor Datin Paduka Dr Teo Soo Hwang explained that PNP was set up with the aim of improving breast cancer survival rates in Malaysia by helping patients overcome barriers to treatment. This is paramount as timely access to treatment significantly increases a patient’s chance of surviving the disease. Read the article by The Star.

“Prior to the implementation of the PNP, one in ​two patients would face a late stage of discovery, while one in seven patients would drop out of treatment. Now, 90% under PNP showed up for their hospital appointments during the MCO, despite being afraid of contracting COVID-19.” – Prof Datin Paduka Dr Teo Soo Hwang

File photo of PNP navigators in action prior to the Movement Control Order (MCO)

Throughout the MCO, the patient navigators (nurses and social workers) have been working closely with patients, hospitals, public services and the community to increase the survival of the women who were undergoing their cancer treatment.

“Face-to-face counselling and support sessions aren’t possible during this time, so we followed up with our patients over the telephone and used our online system to collect data and track patients’ progress.” – Maheswari Jaganathan, PNP Manager

The team also collaborated with local community partners to coordinate the deliveries of groceries, cash and other essential items to all patients in need.

4. I want to be part of this, how can I help more patients?

Cancer Research Malaysia is the only non-profit ​organisation in Malaysia dedicated to saving lives ​through impactful research in Asians.

Why Asians? Most people don’t know that Asians​ make up almost half of the world’s cancer cases but are in less than 10% of the research. ​Our research has already led to the discovery and ​implementation of new and effective cancer ​prevention strategies and our priority is ensuring that Asians are not left out in ​the fight against cancer.​

We call for public support towards PNP so we can continue to drive life-saving action, and together with the Ministry of Health improve breast cancer survival rates across Malaysia.

Learn more about Cancer Research Malaysia

Our Patient Navigation Programme is made possible thanks to the charitable donations, especially funds raised through the Sime Darby LPGA, Pink Tractors, Sime Darby Industrial, and the Edge Foundation.

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