BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The health ministry has reported a 22.8 percent increase in the number of cancer patients over a five-year period in 2015-19 compared to 2010-14.

More Bruneians were also diagnosed with cancer in 2019 with 704 cases, a 9.3 percent rise from the previous year, the health minister stated in a message to mark World Cancer Day on February 4.

Citing data from the Brunei Darussalam Cancer Registry, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said 347 people died from cancer in the same year, accounting for 22.6 percent of all deaths in 2019.

The top cancers among men were colon (74 cases), prostate (30 cases) and lung (25 cases) in 2019.

For women, breast cancer remains the most common cancer with 105 cases, while 75 people were diagnosed with colon cancer.

Women have a higher risk of getting cancer with a 29 percent chance as opposed to 27 percent for men.

The minister said cancer develops due to genetic or environmental factors.

The World Cancer Report 2020 showed that genetic factors contribute 5 to 10 percent of cancer development, while environmental factors increase the risk of cancer by 80 to 90 percent.

‘A challenge to control entry of tobacco’

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said tobacco is still one of the leading causes of cancer worldwide.

Brunei has shown encouraging progress in tobacco control but still has much to do in reducing smoking, he said.

Among the challenges that need to be taken into account is controlling the entry of tobacco because the use of cigarettes among adults and youth still exists even though there are no legal tobacco sellers registered in Brunei,” the minister added.

One in five adults are smokers in Brunei, according to a national non-communicable diseases survey in 2016.

A 2019 global youth tobacco survey found that 9.2 percent or 1 in 10 adolescents are smokers or use tobacco products, while over half of adolescents reported being exposed to secondhand smoke.

Smoking cessation clinics are available at all health centres in Brunei to help smokers kick the habit.

Gov’t targets at least 70% of women to undergo cervical screening

The minister said early detection is important in improving the survival rate or life expectancy of patients.

It was previously reported that 60 percent of breast cancer patients were diagnosed in the later stages.

The public were urged to use the government’s screening facilities and participate in national screening programmes for breast, cervical and colon cancers.

The health ministry introduced the voluntary cancer screening programme in 2019 to prevent the risk of early death.

Brunei has also pledged to improve cervical cancer screening as part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer.

The WHO set a 70 percent target of women screened with a pap test by 35 years of age and again by 45 years of age by 2030.

Brunei has achieved the other two WHO targets: 90 percent vaccination for human papillomavirus (HPV) by the age of 15 and treatment for at least 90 percent of women with cervical disease.

Women aged 35 and above can register for cervical cancer screening at the nearest maternal and child health clinic.