Metastatic breast cancer awareness receives boost from advocacy group, key pharma stakeholder
A community initiative targeted at metastatic breast cancer (mBC) patients has recently been launched by the Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia (BCWA). Called #UnPause, the initiative aims to rally mBC patients to live their lives to the fullest. It further aims to raise awareness of mBC among the public and prevent treatment disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. #UnPause is also supported by Pfizer.
Interested parties can visit the home of #UnPause at thrive-malaysia.com, a digital resource hub containing information about mBC, treatment options, support groups, financial assistance, and video stories of mBC patients that would help those living with mBC feel less isolated.
mBC remains under-represented in the greater scheme of breast cancer discussion
Despite the collective advocacy of breast cancer and multitudes of awareness activities, mBC remains an under-represented voice in the mainstream narrative. In fact, three-in-five respondents surveyed by BCWA in 2019 said they know little to nothing about mBC. [Available at http://thesundaily.my/style-life/zest/embracing-life-YY1652032 Accessed on 23 October 2020]
Ranjit Kaur, BCWA’s president, said: “It is difficult to imagine how intense it can be. Feelings of fear, anxiety, and distress that a person with mBC faces is hard to put into words. They experience sleepless nights and panic more often than usual, imagining that an mBC diagnosis means this is the end of life. They start to worry about who will take over their responsibilities. Yet, it is also equally important for them to realize that life does not have to come to a halt after mBC, and it is possible to live life to the fullest after an mBC diagnosis.”
“At BCWA, our Community Outreach Team is constantly trying to dispel myths and misinformation of mBC as there is a huge stigma against it. This stigma is not only related to society’s misconception but also the self-concept of the patient feeling stigmatized. This includes body-image issues, social isolation, feeling marginalized, enduring stress, behavioural change, treatment- and cost-related issues and more,” said Ranjit.
In the US, mBC is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, and exacts a devastating emotional toll, sometimes transcending into patients’ self-perception, communication with others and also how they lead their lives. Even when diagnosed at an early stage, up to 30 percent of women with early breast cancer will eventually progress to metastatic disease. [Available at http://cancer.net/cancer-types/breast-cancer-metastatic/statistics, https://www.mbcinfocenter.com/coping-with-breast-cancer, https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/staging Accessed on 23 October]
COVID-19 pandemic spares no one
The pandemic is hitting cancer patients especially hard with their families and caregivers being impacted disproportionately. According to the Cancer Research Malaysia’s survey in April 2020, almost half of the patients are concerned about attending hospital appointments because of fear of COVID-19 infection. [Available at https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/family/2020/07/09/how-have-cancer-patients-been-coping-during-the-pandemic Accessed on 23 October]
Cancer patients are caught in a difficult situation as their immune systems are weakened and compromised as a result of their treatment, which leaves them at an increased risk of contracting any disease. Doctors realize this risk to patients and according to Dr Malwinder Singh, consultant clinical oncologist, many hospitals and cancer clinics have taken appropriate steps to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
“Where possible, some centres are also offering virtual appointments, in which patients and physicians can meet online,” Malwinder added.