Sunday March 3, 2013
Care for breast cancer patients below world-class benchmark, study finds
By AUDREY EDWARDS
KUALA LUMPUR: Besides women still getting late diagnosis for breast cancer, there is also a sizeable number who do not get optimal care after undergoing surgery, a study has revealed.
The Healthcare Performance Measurement and Reporting System study shows that while breast surgery “performed well” at 84%, the results for radiotherapy services, chemotherapy treatment and hormonal therapy were all sub-optimal and below the world-class benchmark of 95%.
The three post-surgery services chalked up percentages of 64%, 66% and 66% respectively.
“It is sub-optimal when it does not ensure that the treatment the patient receives will ensure good survival outcome,” lead investigator Dr Lim Teck Onn said after revealing the results yesterday.
Dr Lim, a former Clinical Research Centre director, said about 40% of women were coming in late for breast cancer diagnosis, causing their chances of being treated with the latest technologies to be very slim.
He emphasised the need for better policies and resources to improve treatment for breast cancer patients.
The report also showed that the median age Malaysian women developed breast cancer was 53 while about 40% were aged less than 50.
Data was used from 931 eligible patients from eight hospitals that had services for breast cancer, including Hospital Kuala Lumpur, University Malaya Medical Centre, Sime Darby Medical Centre and Beacon International Specialist Centre.
Besides the lack of oncologists in Malaysia (there are currently only 70), Malaysian Oncological Society immediate past president Datuk Dr Mohamed Ibrahim A. Wahid said the other issues that arose were of patients refusing to undergo chemotherapy and the high cost of medication.
College of Surgeons of Malaysia president and consultant breast surgeon Datuk Dr Yip Cheng Har said while free mammogram screenings were being provided by various quarters, the treatment that followed was expensive.
“The screening is free but a biopsy using ultrasound can cost RM1,500 in a private hospital,” she said.