#HEALTH: The future of cancer care and treatment

COULD we be living in a world without cancer one day?

Experts believe that in the near future, cancer could be considered a manageable chronic disease with much higher survival rates.

For now, however, we are still grappling with a disease that continues to affect millions around the world. In Malaysia, cancer cases are expected to double by 2040.

The main issues related to cancer are early detection, timely care and affordability and accessibility to treatment.

Cancer care has advanced in recent years, with technological innovations in diagnostic imaging that enables earlier detection, precise diagnosis, customised radiation therapy, targeted chemotherapies rooted in knowledge about the human genome, groundbreaking immunotherapies and the development of comprehensive cancer care programmes.

However, creating a world without fear of cancer will require important changes in the way healthcare is organised and oncology is practised.

There is a need for healthcare providers to go "broad" around population health and patient management and go "deep" with hyper-specialisation and cutting-edge technologies.

Navigating these changes will only be possible through multi-disciplinary cooperation, strategic partnerships and the collaborative use of integrated, connected care pathways that span the entire cancer detection and treatment journey.


Speaking at a forum entitled "Creating a World Without Fear of Cancer: A Critical Dialogue", Siemens Healthineers Southeast Asia managing director Fabrice Leguet says the next step in comprehensive cancer care would be summoning the will and collective effort to move beyond today's fragmented cancer care landscape towards a more integrated approach.

Advancements in healthcare have allowed us to take big strides and redefine what is possible when it comes to diagnosing and treating a disease as complicated as cancer, he explains.

However, alleviating the fears of cancer patients requires a collective effort from everyone in the system.

"Our goal is to make detection, diagnosis and treatment more accessible, effective, and personalised to the needs of patients in Southeast Asia."

Patient advocate and former president and current board member of Reach to Recovery International Ranjit Kaur says it's important to understand patients' needs and what's going on in their minds.

The demystification of cancer is very important, she adds, as it is still considered a death sentence in some communities.

People need to have a better understanding of this disease so health literacy among the population is crucial.

The language that clinicians use when dealing with cancer patients is equally important. Patients must be able to understand what doctors are saying about their disease and treatment.

In a world where technology drives improvement in various aspects of our lives, we must also prioritise empathy, timely care, access and comprehensive support systems for patients, not only in Malaysia, but worldwide, adds Ranjit.

"Each patient's journey is often daunting and worrisome, but by paying greater attention to these details, we can help individuals look beyond their diagnosis and find confidence in their ability to overcome cancer."

Varian global head of clinical affairs Professor Ricky Sharma says cancer is a disease that can evolve and mutate to evade treatments.

The importance of patient data cannot be understated, as well as patient' experiences of treatment from country to country.

We need all this information to deliver a personalised patient experience, and it has to be from a holistic point of view, he explains.

"We need to be asking important questions from the patient's perspective. Is treatment accessible? Are patients being treated with the respect they deserve? How and where are clinical decisions being made and the treatments being administered?"

We need to aim for a frictionless, patient-centric experience so we can, as communities, move towards our vision of a world without fear of cancer, he adds.


According to the World Health Organisation:

•Almost 10 million deaths in 2020, or 1 in 6 deaths, were due to cancer.

•The most common cancers are breast, lung, colon and rectum and prostate.

•Around one-third of deaths from cancer are due to tobacco use, high body mass index, alcohol consumption and low fruit and vegetable intake.

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