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Saturday April 28, 2012

Hospital creates Facebook page to raise awareness on nose cancer

RAJA Permaisuri Bainun Hospital is turning to popular social networking website Facebook to raise public awareness on nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) or nose cancer.

Its ear, nose and throat (ENT) department has created the page with the intention of reaching out to the younger generation and doctors who did not specialise in ENT.

Hospital ENT surgeon, Dr Rekha Balachandran said Facebook was chosen as it had a wide international reach.

Primary area: Dr Rekha pointing to the nasopharynx region where the nasopharyngeal carcinoma tumour will grow.

“In this time and age, almost everyone has a Facebook account and with it, we are not only reaching out to Perakians or Malaysians but also people in other countries.

“Our target group is the younger generation and those who are Internet savvy.

“Each ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ (of the videos uploaded), would help spread the awareness further,” she said.

Dr Rekha said the hospital had produced a video on NPC in Mandarin, Bahasa Malaysia and English, and uploaded it on the Facebook page.

The video explained what is NPC, its symptoms and diagnosis.

It also contained photographs of survivors who were responding well to treatment.

“Raising awareness is vital because NPC, which is known as the ‘forgotten cancer’, was the third most common cancer affecting Malaysian men in 2006.

“It is also most common among the Chinese and Bidayuh communities,” she said, adding that common symptoms to watch out for included painless neck swellings, persistent nose blocks, nosebleeds, blocked ears, ringing in the ear and double vision.

“NPC appears on the inside of the nose where the patient cannot see and is very easy for patients, who are unfamiliar with the disease, to dismiss the symptoms as minor pains.

“When the symptoms first appear, the patient is usually in Stage 1 or Stage 2 but unfortunately, many do not seek medical attention because they do not feel any pain, even if there is a large swelling on their necks,” she added.

Dr Rekha said not only was there low public awareness, even doctors were unfamiliar with this type of cancer.

“This lack of awareness causes about 70% of patients to be diagnosed only six months after the first symptom has appeared,” she said, adding that a patient’s survival rate was reduced when they were in Stage Three or Stage Four of the cancer.

The page, said Dr Rekha, was managed by the hospital’s ENT specialists, who would respond to questions posted by Facebook users.

“They can ask any questions that they have regarding symptoms and treatments related to NPC,” she said.

The page, www.facebook.com/NPC.awareness, which was launched by state Health Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon yesterday, has already recorded nearly 100 of ‘Like’ since it was created on Wednesday.

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