Closing the cancer care gap in Southeast Asia
Asia’s cancer cases are set to spike with the total number of new cases across the region projected to rise to 11.5 million in 2030, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
An ageing population as well as other risk factors such as a family history of cancer, alcohol, poor diet, lack of physical activity and obesity are contributing to the rise in new cancer cases.
Many types of cancer including breast, cervical and prostate cancer are highly treatable if detected early and treated properly. Unfortunately, much of developing Asia faces a shortage of healthcare professionals and medical devices such as radiotherapy and tomotherapy machines.
This has contributed to advanced-stage cancers and poor survival outcomes in many patients living in less developed countries who lack easy access to affordable and quality cancer services, leading to vast differences in healthcare equity.
In addition, funding for cancer research remains inadequate and there are gaps in service availability, particularly in rural areas. Clinical data, which is critical to cancer research and treatment, is also limited.
Addressing cancer disparities
To overcome this problem, World Cancer Day’s new three-year “Close the Care Gap” campaign was initiated by the Union for International Cancer Control to create awareness that life-saving cancer diagnosis and treatment needs to be accessible to everyone, no matter their background, level of education or income.
The campaign aligns well with IOC’s vision to bring hope and quality cancer care to Asia.
“At IOC, we meet people from different backgrounds and cultures every day. We embrace diversity and respect that every patient is unique, each has their own story and their own cancer journey,” said Chairman of IOC and Group CEO of TE Asia, Mr Eng Aik Meng.
“In conjunction with World Cancer Day, we would like to reinforce our commitment to provide integrated oncology care in Asia, treating our patients with respect and empowering them to take charge of their cancer journey.”
Increasing accessibility to integrated cancer care
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Asian patients seeking world-class cancer care could travel to more developed cities like Singapore or Hong Kong for treatment. However, ongoing travel restrictions and border closures mean these patients must currently rely on local healthcare services.
Fortunately, IOC fills the care gap by providing a full range of cost-effective cancer services under one shared care system, bringing together an expert team with state-of-the-art technology including diagnostic imaging, radiation therapy, drug treatments, latest molecular tests and medicines.
IOC’s regional portfolio includes oncology centres in developing countries such as Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Adi Husada Cancer Center in Surabaya, for example, is the first and only private integrated cancer centre equipped with the full suite of cancer treatment facilities which includes radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery services in East Indonesia. Over in the Philippines, Central Luzon Integrated Oncology Centre is the only cancer centre in Central Luzon offering tomotherapy, a form of radiation therapy that can deliver more precise and controlled radiation dosage to tumour cells.
Beacon Hospital in the Malaysian state of Selangor has become the first Southeast Asian hospital to introduce the Varian Halcyon 2.0 machine to its cancer patients. Used to treat various types of cancer including breast, cervical, lung and prostate cancer, this new radiotherapy device can shorten the duration of treatment to just one and a half minutes. The hospital also offers dual tracer PET/CT, a more advanced imaging technology that can enhance cancer diagnosis and prognosis.
Meanwhile, Hung Viet Cancer Hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam is only the second private radiotherapy facility in Vietnam’s capital to have a radiotherapy machine.
Saving millions of lives
Millions of lives can be saved if proper treatment and care is made available to everyone, regardless of their social, economic and cultural backgrounds.
Looking ahead, doctors, nurses and allied health professionals across IOC’s network and at individual centres will continue to work collaboratively to close the gap in patient care.