The Be Cancer Alert Campaign – Colorectal Cancer (BCAC – CRC) is a collaborative research project between the University of Malaya (UM), Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) and the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MoH). The team includes Prof Michael Donelly from QUB, Associate Prof Tin Tin Su, Prof Maznah Dahlui & Associate Prof Loh Siew Yim from University of Malaya, Dr Saunthari Somasundaram (NCSM), Dr Nor Saleha Binti Ibrahim Tamin (MoH). The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of the second most common cancer in Malaysia – colorectal cancer and to reduce its burden long-term.
On April 5, 2018, principal investigator Assoc Prof Dr Tin Tin Su (UM) was joined by her collaborators, Dr Saunthari Somasundaram (NCSM), Dr Nor Saleha Binti Ibrahim Tamin (MoH) and Dr Desiree Schliemann (QUB) to launch BCAC – CRC in the Art Gallery, University of Malaya to signify the start of the campaign. In addition, Yakult ambassadors and celebrities Fara Fauzana and Jack Lim joined the launch to show their support for the campaign. Prof Dr Maznah Dahlui, Deputy Dean (Development), Faculty of Medicine, and Prof Sanjay Rampal, head of the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine represented the Faculty of Medicine.
BCAC-CRC is driven by results from the National Cancer Awareness Benchmarking survey in 2014, led by Assoc. Prof. Su that found that 50 per cent of respondents were unaware that changes in bowel habits are a symptom of colorectal cancer. Assoc. Prof. Su highlights “We found that people who recognise the symptoms are 60 per cent more likely to see a doctor than those who don’t. This calls for a need to raise society’s awareness of cancer.”
Also, nearly 90 per cent of respondents above 50 years old – the recommended age to start colorectal cancer screening – have not attended a colorectal cancer screening in the last five years. “The low level of awareness as well as the lack of motivation to go for screenings is a major concern,” says Assoc Prof Su. “The previous finding indicates that Malaysians are at risk of late detection leading to a lower chance of survival and that there is a need for a colorectal cancer awareness raising campaign. The public needs to know that colorectal cancer can be cured if found and treated early.”
The Be Cancer Alert campaign was informed by the Be Cancer Aware campaign, which was successfully run by the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland. The Colorectal Cancer Awareness Campaign runs from April 2, 2018, for 5 weeks and will promote the importance of recognising signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer through TV (TV3, TV9, 8TV) and radio commercials (Lite FM and Raaga FM), a website (www.becanceralert.com), social media, as well as street buntings and poster displays in clinics. The team will then determine the effectiveness of the awareness activities.
BCAC will benefit Malaysian communities by increasing public awareness about warning signs and symptoms and the value of early presentation. It will also help primary care physicians in term of improving their understanding about the community, which they serve, in term of the felt needs, misbeliefs and emotional barriers and cancer literacy of the population. The evaluation results will be of use to public health experts, NGOs and the government to run larger scale cancer awareness mass media campaigns in future.