A serious illness, cancer is a dangerous and life threatening disease that can affect everyone – the young and the old, the rich and the poor, men, women and children. We understand how disruptive and upsetting it can be when you find out that you or your loved ones have cancer, and we are dedicated to help you fight this illness to the best of our abilities. One of the highest causes of mortality in both developed and developing countries, cancer needs to be managed with exacting levels of patient care and rigour. Advances in medical sciences have improved the prognosis for cancer patients, especially when they are detected in the early stages of the disease. Targeted therapies may also help to prevent the spread of cancer throughout the body.
A leading centre for oncology in the region, we adopt a team-based approach in diagnosing and treating cancer. Our cancer patients benefit from our multi-disciplinary team of sub-specialists, supported by advanced technology in cancer treatment.
CANCER CONDITIONS, SYMPTOMS, RISK FACTORS AND SCREENING
The three most common cancers based on volume, in Malaysia, are breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer.
Breast cancer often develops in the cells of the milk producing ducts (such cancers are known as “ductal carcinoma”) and the lobules that supply the ducts with milk (also known as “lobular carcinoma”).
The most common symptom is a breast lump which may or may not be painful. The nipple may be drawn in or have a discharge. The breast skin could be swollen. Lymph nodes at the armpit may be enlarged.
Colon and rectal cancer start in the colon or the rectum. Most colorectal cancers start as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum called polyps. Over time, some develop into cancer, growing into the wall of the colon or rectum.
Lung cancer develops in the lungs with the two main types being small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) and non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC).
Symptoms include a prolonged worsening cough, blood tinged sputum, and chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing.
Risk Factors for Cancer
Some risk factors may increase a person’s chances of developing cancer. Some of the most studied risk factors are listed below2.
- Chronic Inflammation
- Cancer-causing agents such as asbestos
Screenings to Detect Cancer Early
For a few cancers, studies show that screening tests can save lives by diagnosing cancer early when treatment is likely to work best. The guidelines from the American Cancer Society3 to screen for the three most common cancers in Malaysia as follows:
- Annual mammogram from age 40 to 54
- Every two years from age 55
- Colorectal (colon) cancers
From age 50, both men and woman can undertake the following tests to find both polyps and cancer
- Colonoscopy every ten years, or
- CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every five years, or
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, or
- Double-contrast barium enema every five years
- Lung cancer
Screening with an annual low-dose CT scan (LDCT) of the chest is encourage only for the high risk individuals as defined below
- 55 to 74 years of age
- In good health
- Have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history AND are either still smoking or have quit within the last 15 years (A pack-year is the number of cigarette packs smoked each day multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked. Someone who smoked a pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years has a 30 pack-year smoking history, as does someone who smoked 2 packs a day for 15 years.)
In addition to the above, screening for cervical cancer has also shown to be effective. It is recommended that women should have
- Every three years, a Pap test smear from age 21-29
- Every five years, a Pap and HPV (co-testing) from age 30 – 65
* Please note that symptoms may differ from person to person and a health screening is needed to determine the cause of any symptom with accuracy.
How Does Cancer Occur?
Cancer occurs when the genes in individual cells that make up the human body start to behave differently from normal cells. Unlike normal cells, cancerous cells divide and multiply at an accelerated rate. Once this occurs, the set of instructions in the genes of the cell no longer work as before, and the cell loses its normal function.
Other than cancer, several different terms are used to describe cancers which occur in different parts of the body. A tumour is a growth that occurs at its original site in the body, while a carcinoma is a form of cancer that occurs on the skin. A sarcoma is a cancer that occurs in the connective tissues like muscles, while leukaemia and lymphoma are cancers that arise from blood and lymphatic cells respectively.
Types of Cancer and Symptoms
Breast cancer often develops in the cells of the milk-producing ducts (such cancers are known as “ductal carcinoma”) and the lobules that supply the ducts with milk (also known as “lobular carcinoma”).
The most common symptom is a breast lump which may or may not be painful. The nipple may be drawn in or have a discharge. The breast skin could be swollen. Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit may be present.
Cervical cancer occurs when the cells of the cervix grow abnormally and invade the surrounding tissues and organs. The cervix is the lowest point of a woman’s uterus (womb) and connects the uterus with the vagina.
In the early stages, there is usually no pain or other symptoms. As the cancer develops, the first signs would be unusual vaginal bleeding such as after intercourse, between menstrual periods or after menopause, pain from the pelvis and abnormal discharge.
Colon and rectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum. Most colorectal cancers begin as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum called polyps. Over time, they may develop into cancer, growing into the wall of the colon or rectum.
Symptoms include a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding and blood in the stool.
Liver cancer develops in the cells of the liver. The most common type of liver cancer is Hepatocellular carcinoma.
Symptoms may be vague in the early stages, such as fatigue, fever and night sweats. As the cancer develops, signs include jaundice, pain the right upper section of the abdomen and itching all over the body.
Lung cancer develops in the lungs with the two main types being small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) and non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC).
Symptoms include a prolonged worsening cough, blood tinged sputum and chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing.
Prostate cancer occurs in the prostate, a small gland in men that produces the fluid that transports sperm. Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men.
In its early stages, there is frequently no symptom. As the cancer develops, symptoms include trouble urinating, blood in semen and decreased force in the urine stream.
Stomach cancer begins in the inner lining of the stomach and is one of the most common cancers in East Asia.
Symptoms include upper abdominal pain, constant indigestion and loss of appetite.
Our Approach to Oncology
Committed to helping you and your loved ones to recover from cancer, we adopt a multi-disciplinary and holistic approach to treating the different forms of cancer. Every patient will be reviewed by our team of oncologists, surgeons and other cancer specialists to ensure that they receive appropriate standards of medical diagnosis, treatment and patient care.
Supported by an extensive range of specialised equipment and operating theatres to assist in the precise diagnosis and treatment of cancers, we keep ourselves constantly updated on the latest cancer therapies and research available to provide optimal standards of care for our patients.
Screening tests are done in people who do not feel ill. These tests aim to detect diseases at an early stage before any symptoms become noticeable.
Screening for the top three most common cancers in Malaysia may include the following types of tests
- Breast cancer
- Mammography which involves using X-rays to detect abnormal growths or tumours is a commonly used test for women who may or may not have symptoms and signs of breast cancer.
- Breast MRI and ultrasound may also be used to screen women with a high risk of breast cancer, but these are not the usual screening tests.
- Colon and Rectal Cancer
- Faecal Occult Blood Test checks for blood in the stools
- Colonoscopy or Virtual colonoscopy is used to detect abnormal growths like polyps which may become malignant. A colonoscopy involves the insertion of a flexible tube with a tiny camera into your colon. Virtual colonoscopy involves the use of a CT scan and the insertion of a shorter flexible tube to take pictures of the colon and rectum as well as the surrounding areas
- Lung Cancer
- Low-dose Helical Computed Tomography used for patients, such as smokers, who may be at higher risk of lung cancer
Other tests may be done to help detect signs of other types of cancer include
- Blood tests that detect levels of
- Alpha-fetoprotein for liver cancer
- Prostate-specific antigen for prostate cancer
- CA-125 for ovarian cancer
- Pap test or Human papillomavirus (HPV) test to check for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix. During the routine procedure, cells from the cervix are removed and then examined in a laboratory for abnormal growth.
At Gleneagles Penang, we can provide the above cancer screening services in a modern and comforting environment. You will receive your test results reviewed together with a doctor who can explain and provide recommendations based on your lifestyle and cancer risk factors.
Diagnosis For Cancer
Your doctor may diagnose cancer through:
|Diagnostic process or screening||Purpose|
|Physical exam||To check for lumps and abnormalities in your body|
|Laboratory tests||To assist in identifying abnormalities such as unusual levels of white blood cells, commonly present in people with leukaemia|
|Imaging tests||To allow specialists to examine your bones and internal organs in a noninvasive non-invasive way.|
|Biopsies||To help in definitively diagnosing cancer|
*This is not a complete list of all the diagnostic procedures and treatments we provide. The information provided is for educational reference only and should not be seen as medical advice.
Please consult one of our qualified healthcare specialists for an accurate diagnosis before starting on any treatment.
Treatments For Cancer
Cancer is often treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or biological therapy (immunotherapy) by a team of specialist surgeons, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists. The doctors may decide to use one or a combination of therapies described below, depending on factors such as patient’s health, type, location, and stage of cancer.
|Option A: Treatment||Details|
|Surgery||Surgery removes the tumours from the body which help in reducing the number of cancer cells, controlling the spread and relieving symptoms.
|Radiotherapy||Radiotherapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer and the surrounding cells. It is usually provided on an outpatient basis over several weeks.
|Chemotherapy||Chemotherapy is delivered via a vein or muscle and provides systemic circulation of the drugs to all parts of the body. It is given on an outpatient basis in cycles, alternating periods of treatment and rest.
|Hormone therapy||Hormone therapy is prescribed for cancers such as breast and prostate cancer that depend on hormones to grow.
|Biological therapy||Biological therapy such as Monoclonal antibodies, interferon, interleukin-2, and colony-stimulating factors such as GM-CSF and G-CSF are given to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight the cancer or protect the body from infection.
Oncology Treatment Facilities
At Gleneagles Penang, we know how daunting cancer treatment can be. We are here to help you get started on the healing process.
Each patient is different and will get a customised treatment plan. An oncologist will coordinate your care and guide you through all aspects of your journey. Our advanced diagnostic and treatment technologies aim to provide the best possible outcome while minimising your side effects and recovery time.
As our hospital has a dedicated Cancer Centre with a comprehensive and multidisciplinary oncology facilities and services that emphasizes on patient-centered cancer care, we are equipped with up-to-date imaging and radiotherapy equipment to help diagnose and treat cancer. Some of the services we provide are:
- Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)
- Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT)
- Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT)
Patients are also treated in our dedicated Haematology & Oncology Treatment Units.
By keeping in good general health and paying attention to any changes in your body and physical function, you can be proactive in preserving your health and immune system. If you or your loved ones have any health concerns, our caring and multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals are available for consultations.
Our Cancer Therapies and Surgery
Occurring at multiple sites throughout the body, the effective treatment of cancers involves a mixture of clinical oncology, radiotherapy, and haemato-oncology (scientific study of cancer involving blood or tissues making blood).
Supported by radiology, interventional radiology, and pathology, we provide the following areas of cancer treatment:
- Breast Cancer Therapies and Surgery
- Colorectal Cancer Treatment and Surgery
- Gynaecological Oncology (specific for women)
- Neurosurgery (cancer of the brain)
- Surgical Oncology
- Orthopaedic Oncology (musculoskeletal cancers)
- Urology (bladder and urinary tract cancers)
- Chest Medicine (cancer of the lungs)
- Gastroenterology (cancer of the stomach, intestines and other parts of the alimentary canal)
- Hepatology (liver cancer)
- Nephrology (kidney cancer)
Our Oncology Specialists
As one of the leading cancer treatment centres in the region, Gleneagles Penang has one of the largest team of cancer specialists in North Malaysia. Our dedicated Cancer Centre with multi-disciplinary and comprehensive team of oncologists are ably supported by a dedicated team of experienced nurses who are trained to sensitively manage the physical and emotional needs of our cancer patients.