Campaign to be cancer alert

The cancer survivor forum was moderated by Amber Chia (left) with (from second left) Selangomy Irudayam, Mahani Kassim and Irene Tham as panelists.

THE Be Cancer Alert Campaign is a research collaboration project between Universiti Malaya (UM), Queen’s University Belfast, Monash University Malaysia, the National Cancer Society Malaysia and the Health Ministry.

The cancer awareness campaign emphasises the importance of getting screened for breast cancer as well as recognising the key signs and symptoms.

“Many women are aware that lumps are warning signs for breast cancer. However, few women know that symptoms such as skin dimpling, turned in nipples and discharge from nipples can also be signs of breast cancer.

“Our research shows that women face fears about cancer, which may stop them from seeing a doctor early,” says Monash University Malaysia principal investigator Prof Dr Tin Tin Su.

Prof Su who is UM honorary professor, believes that the lack of knowledge as well as the fear of cancer can be addressed with a mass media campaign.

Prof Dr Maznah Dahlui from UM says: “We ran a colorectal cancer mass media campaign earlier this year.” The first findings indicate that people increased their knowledge about some important warning signs of colorectal cancer and reduced their fear about cancer, she added.

Findings from the previous campaign also showed that about 40% of the study population noticed the Be Cancer Alert Campaign TV and print advertisements, indicating the wide reach of mass media.

Running throughout October, the Be Cancer Alert campaign will promote the importance of recognising signs and symptoms through TV and radio commercials, a website, social media, as well as street buntings and poster displays in clinics. The team will evaluate the effectiveness of the awareness activities.

National Cancer Society of Malaysia president and medical director Dr Saunthari Somasundaram explains that nine out of 10 women can be cured if breast cancer is detected at an early stage; however 43% of breast cancer cases are currently detected at a very late stage, reducing chances of survival.

“The public needs to know that breast cancer can be cured if found and treated early.” she adds.

Screening every two years is recommended for women aged 50 years and older and can help detect symptoms before they become noticeable. However, previous research shows that over 60% of women in that age group never had a mammogram in the past five years. Prof Su stressed that the low level of awareness as well as the lack of motivation to go for screenings is a major concern.

The team advises women not to be shy to check their breasts and to look out for any changes; this simple habit can help notice potential breast cancer warning signs early.

The Be Cancer Alert campaign will be held from Sept 24 to Oct 28 and its effectiveness will be evaluated by the parties to the research collaboration.

For details on the campaign, visit

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