Common types of cancer in Malaysia

Cancer, is a universal disease that can attack anyone, anywhere in the world. According to the World Health Organization, 8.8 million people died because of cancer in 2015, with tobacco carrying the highest risk. In Malaysia itself, more than 20,000 Malaysians are diagnosed with cancer, excluding unregistered cases.
How does cancer occur? Cancer happens when there is abnormal cell growth in your body. These cells grow uncontrollably, while it feeds on the oxygen and nutrients in your body. As they grow bigger, it becomes more dangerous. An early detection makes it easier to treat cancer, therefore increasing the chance of survival.
Being aware of the common types of cancer in Malaysia may help you and those around you to be more conscious about cancer, the second leading cause of death in the world.

Breast cancer

In the recent years, more and more people have been diagnosed with breast cancer, be it Malaysia or other countries. There are many factors that cause breast cancer, some can be avoided and some cannot. Factors that can be avoided include alcohol consumption, weight, radiation exposure, while unchangeable risks are family history, age, genetics etc.
There are many symptoms of breast cancer. Now that cancer is a common disease, it is important for women and men to be more aware of any abnormality in their bodies. Regular check-ups can be the key to early detection as well. If you spot a lump, thickening, change in breast appearance, inverted nipple, flaky skin around the areola, immediately go for a check-up. An early detection is better than a late one. SunMed has specific body check-ups for females, where screening is done exclusively on the breast to determine the presence of cancer cells.
If you happen to be diagnosed with breast cancer, do not panic because Sunway Medical Centre will be able to help you with the right treatments. SunMed is one of the renowned cancer hospitals in Malaysia who have successfully treated many cancer patients, locally and internationally.

Cervical cancer

Each year, more than 2,100 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Malaysia. Cervical cancer commonly occurs among women of ages 15 to 44.
What exactly is cervical cancer? Cervical cancer grows in the cervix, which connects the vagina to the lower part of the uterus. 80 to 90 percent of cervical cancers are categorised as squamous cell carcinomas, a growth that begins from the bottom of the cervix. On the other hand, another type of cervical cancer called adenocarcinomas start in the upper part of the cervix.
Some of the factors that increase the risk of cervical cancer are human papillomavirus (HPV), multiple sexual partners, smoking and weakened immune systems. Cervical cancer develops over time and its growth can be split into 4 stages. When precancerous cells are present in Stage 0, it may be hard to detect. Stage 1 is when cancer cells have grown deeper into the tissues, and in Stage 2, cancer cells will have invaded the top of the vagina. During Stage 3, the lower part of the vagina will have been infected, and the cancer cells may have blocked the ureter, a tube that transports urine from the kidneys to the bladder. When the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, it means that it has reached Stage 4 of cervical cancer.

Colon cancer

Nearly 3,000 cases of colorectal cancer are reported each year in Malaysia. Colon cancer, or colorectal cancer (involving the colon and the rectum), is another common type of cancer in Malaysia. People who are over 50 years old have a higher risk of getting colon cancer, apart from those who have habits such as smoking, consuming alcohol excessively, or practise unhealthy eating habits.
If you’re in the high-risk category of getting colon cancer, then it is important to go for regular screening because it can be preventable. Screening allows the doctors to locate the precancerous cells and remove them before they start developing. Furthermore, treatment for colon cancer is most effective at an early stage.
Just like other cancers, there are various symptoms for colon cancer as well. If you’re continuously getting diarrhoea or constipation, which is unusual for you, then it’s best to go for a screening. If you find bright red or dark blood in your stool, a screening may be necessary. Furthermore, if you are experiencing bloating and abdominal cramps frequently, weakness and fatigue, it is advisable to go for a medical screening.
Colon cancer symptoms may seem like they’re nothing to worry about, but if you notice a difference like the ones mentioned above, a screening would definitely be a wise option.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer is one of the common cancers in Malaysia, and it has been reported that 19.8% of cancer-related deaths are caused by lung cancer.
Smoking is a major cause of lung cancer, but people who do not smoke can also get lung cancer. Other causes include family history, long-term exposure to secondhand smoke and toxic substances like radon gas, asbestos and carcinogens. All these factors increase the risk of getting lung cancer, unfortunately some can be unavoidable, especially if there is a family history of lung cancer. However, regular screening can help to detect a cancer while it’s at the first or second stage, therefore getting a higher chance of a successful treatment.
If you’re experiencing a cough that wouldn’t go away, or notice blood with your cough, hoarseness and shortness of breath, it may be wise to get a screening at the hospital. Sunway Medical Centre offers low-dose CT scans to test for lung cancer, hence you can always visit them if there are possible signs of a lung cancer.
SunMed offers specialists who will be able to advise you in case you’re diagnosed with lung cancer. No matter which stage is it, they’ll be able to guide you and show you the steps to help you battle with cancer.

Skin cancer

From year 2007 to 2011, there are more than 2,400 reported cases of skin cancer in males and females in Malaysia.
According to Dr Zee, a specialist in Medical Oncology, excessive sun exposure carries a high risk of skin cancer. The ultra-violet (UV) contained in sunlight will lead to skin cancer if a person is always under the sun for a long period. Other than that, sunburns, artificial tanning, family history, exposure to radiation are some other factors that cause skin cancer as well. Even though anyone can get skin cancer, people with fair skin have a higher risk compared to people with darker skin. Fair-skinned people have less melanin in their skin, hence they’re less protected from the UV light. Additionally, those with a weakened immunity system due to certain drugs are also more likely to get skin cancer.
Preventive measures for skin cancer include using sunscreen, hats, umbrellas etc to protect yourself from the sun. Additionally, avoid using tanning beds because the UV rays emitted increases your chance of getting skin cancer. If you’re constantly exposed to harmful substances at your workplace, protections such as clothing and equipment are important to reduce the risks of skin cancer.

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