The Brunei Cancer Centre (TBCC) under the Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre (PJSC) will soon be able to treat all Brunei cancer patients locally, eliminating the need to send patients overseas for treatment and helping reduce government expenditure.

Currently, 98 per cent of Brunei cancer patients are treated at the Brunei Cancer Centre. The remaining two per cent are sent to Singapore to receive treatments not yet available in Brunei, said PJSC Executive Director Dr Mazrul Adimin Hj Awg Besar in a press conference on Friday.

TBCC’s Radiotherapy Department has treated more than 600 cases since it opened in 2016.

However, with the plan to introduce brachytherapy in the next few months, TBCC will be equipped to provide treatments to all cancer patients locally, an investment that Dr Mazrul said will help to reduce patients’ stress and allow family members to provide their support. The move will also save government’s spending in the long run.

One of the state-of-the art linear accelerator, the Varian Edge available at the Radiology Department, the Brunei Cancer Centre allows treatment to be conducted within five to 10 minutes compared to the previous two hours. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Brachytherapy involves radiation delivered from a tiny source implanted directly into or next to the tumour. The new treatment will be an addition to the list of latest innovations and services provided by TBCC’s Radiotherapy Department.

According to PJSC, it has made headway in radiotherapy through the use of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT). The treatments are non-surgical radiation used to treat brain tumours not accessible when conducting open surgery. In comparison to traditional radiation therapy, it delivers precise radiation in fewer high-dose treatments without affecting the surrounding healthy tissue.

The radiotherapy clinical team is also currently handling its first two cases of paediatric retinoblastoma, a cancerous tumor that grows in the retina.

Medical Director of PJSC, Dato Seri Laila Jasa Dr Babu Sukumaran said cancer is now the country’s number one killer, and stressed the importance of raising awareness of prevention trough early detection and treatment.

“We are doing our part to increase cancer awareness to get people to make healthy lifestyle choices, to get people to come (for check ups) and get diagnose early,” he said.

Dato Dr Babu, who is also the director of the Brunei Cancer Centre, said 600 new cancer cases are diagnosed each year, with the centre seeing five to seven new cases every week. He added that new referrals from ​​​the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital will be seen within one to two weeks in order to not delay treatment.

Source: Ministry of Health

Consultant Radiation Oncologist and head of Radiotherapy Department, Dr Jamsari Khalid said better awareness, quicker diagnosis and treatment will improve patients’ survival rate.

When we started radiotherapy services in 2016, we realised that 35 per cent of our patients belonged to the higher stage group. This means that 35 percent of the patients are in stage four.

Bowel, lung and prostate cancer are the three most common cancers among men in Brunei, while breast, bowel and cervical cancer are most common among women.

Asked to comment on the reasons for delay in patient diagnosis,Dr Jamsari said, “I think what happens in many of our patients is the fear and stigma of not knowing what to do… they may not be aware [that they have cancer].

He added that perhaps that some patients may also seek or prefer alternative medicine, which may delay their cancer treatment. 

“We’re here to promote effective medicine, which has been tried and tested. If you are not sure, see your doctor first,” he advised.