Six hundred Bruneians are diagnosed with cancer every year, making it the leading cause of death in the sultanate.
The country recorded 353 deaths from cancer in 2016, accounting for 20 per cent of all mortalities, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH).
Bowel, lung and prostate cancer are the three most common cancers among men, while breast, bowel and cervical cancer are most common among women.
“The mean age of people diagnosed with cancer is 50.1 years for breast cancer, 49 years for cervical cancer, 65.5 years for lung cancer and 60.1 years for colorectal cancer,” the health minister said in a statement to mark World Cancer Day, which falls on February 4.
Dato Paduka Dr Hj Md Isham Jaafar said one in four Bruneians will be affected by cancer in their lifetime, but 30 to 50 per cent of cancers are preventable if people make healthy lifestyle choices.
To mark World Cancer Day, free cancer screenings will be offered nationwide from February to April, facilitated by the Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre through the Maxillofacial, Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Centre.
Over three months, the centre will offer residents screenings for mouth, neck and skin cancers at district hospitals.
The Ministry of Health also offers cancer screening services such as pap smears; breast exams and mammograms; colonoscopies and tests to detect bleeding in the bowel.
Dato Dr Hj Md Isham urged people with a family history of cancer to get regular screenings.
“For three years now, the theme for World Cancer Day is ‘We Can, I Can’ indicating that all of us, no matter our backgrounds, age or where we live or work, can take different actions to reduce our risk of developing cancer,” he said.
The minister added that the government has also invested in cancer prevention by giving out vaccines for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Hepatitis B.
MoH also works closely with the Brunei Cancer Centre (TBCC) — utilising new services such as radiotherapy and nuclear medicine — to improve cancer management and patient care.
The minister said several government agencies are engaged in a broader effort to tackle non-communicable disease, focusing on reducing tobacco use, improving food culture and encouraging active lifestyles.
“One of the actions taken under improving Brunei’s food environment is to work with the private sector… supermarkets and restaurants on the Healthier Choice Initiative… This ambitious initiative aims to provide healthier food choices in the local market and to make these more accessible to the public,” he said.