BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – More than 60 percent of breast cancer patients in Brunei are diagnosed at the late stage, when the cancer has already spread to the lymph nodes or other organs.

A recent study conducted by Universiti Brunei Darussalam and the Ministry of Health showed that patients’ five-year survival rate dropped from 92 percent in early-stage breast cancer to 21 percent in advanced stage cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in Brunei, with 100 new cases recorded each year between 2009 and 2018.

The results of the study were revealed during the launch of the Early Detection and Cancer Prevention Services (EDCP) at Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre on Saturday.

Datin Dr Noraslinah Hj Ramlee, head of EDCP Services, said the new facility will be an extension of the Ministry of Health’s recently-launched screening programme for breast and colon cancers, which is aimed at reducing early mortality from cancer.

The main function of EDCP Services will include cancer screening, counselling and health education for high-risk individuals and/or those with a family history of cancer.

“The services will be manned by two doctors, two nurses and two caregivers who can assist us in our health counselling,” she said.

“We hope that it will give more accessibility, visibility and empowerment to the public to get early detection and screening programmes for cancer.”

Nurses demonstrate how to conduct a breast examination during the launch of the early detection and cancer prevention services at PJSC. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

The EDCP services are established as part of The Brunei Cancer Centre, which is located at Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre. Bruneian citizens will only have to pay $1 for the service, while permanent residents pay $3. 

Datin Dr Noraslinah hoped to receive a good response from the public, adding that “the first step is to get over your fear of the unknown”.

EDCP Services started its pilot testing in April, targeting 80 staff members from Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre aged 40 years and above.

“Our target was 80 people but only 40 people came. So even within our health staff, the fear of the unknown is still there.

“With the official opening of EDCP services, our main focus is lifestyle counselling, education on modifiable risks factors of cancers such as smoking, viruses that can be prevented such as HPV and Hepatitis B,” the doctor added.

“A lot of people have the knowledge, but maybe they are scared… they don’t realise the value of getting screened and checked.”

Patients with abnormal results from the cancer screening at EDCP Services will be referred to specialists at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hjh Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital for a follow-up.

EDCP Services is located at level two of PJSC. It is open from Monday to Thursday from 8am-12pm and 1pm-5pm, and on Fridays from 8am-12pm and 2pm-5pm. The services cost $1 for Brunei citizens and $3 for permanent residents.