A review of breast cancer research in malaysia

Med J Malaysia 2014; 69 Suppl A: 8-22

Author

Yip CH, Bhoo Pathy N, Teo SH

Abstract

Four hundred and nineteen articles related to breast cancer were found in a search through a database dedicated to indexing all original data relevant to medicine published in Malaysia between the years 2000-2013. One hundred and fifty four articles were selected and reviewed on the basis of clinical relevance and future research implications. Overall, Malaysian women have poor survival from breast cancer and it is estimated that half of the deaths due to breast cancer could be prevented. Five-year survival in Malaysia was low and varies among different institutions even within the same disease stage, suggesting an inequity of access to optimal treatment or a lack of compliance to optimal treatment. Malaysian women have poor knowledge of the risk factors, symptoms and methods for early detection of breast cancer, leading to late presentation. Moreover, Malaysian women experience cancer fatalism, belief in alternative medicine, and lack of autonomy in decision making resulting in delays in seeking or avoidance of evidence-based medicine. There are ethnic differences in estrogen receptor status, HER2 overexpression and incidence of triple negative breast cancer which warrant further investigation. Malay women present with larger tumours and at later stages, and even after adjustment for these and other prognostic factors (stage, pathology and treatment), Malay women have a poorer survival. Although the factors responsible for these ethnic differences have not been elucidated, it is thought that pharmacogenomics, lifestyle factors (such as weight-gain, diet and exercise), and psychosocial factors (such as acceptance of 2nd or 3rd line chemotherapy) may be responsible for the difference in survival. Notably, survivorship studies show self-management programmes and exercise improve quality of life, highlighting the need to evaluate the psychosocial impact of breast cancer on Malaysian women, and to design culturally-, religiously- and linguistically-appropriate psycho-education programmes to help women cope with the disease and improve their quality of life. Research done in the Caucasian populations may not necessarily apply to local settings and it is important to embark on local studies particularly prevention, screening, diagnostic, prognostic, therapeutic and psychosocial research.


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