Malaysia has the worst survival of breast cancer in the Asia Pacific, where only half of patients survive up to 5 years after diagnosis (as compared to 80% in Singapore and 92% in Korea). A major reason for this is late presentation and poor adherence to evidence-based treatment.
Studies in psychosocial factors show that fear, poor health education, and lack of empowerment among Malaysians are major reasons why they delay or default treatment. In order to address these challenges, CRM identified the patient navigation programme as a potential community-based solution to improve the Malaysian survivorship of breast cancer.
Patient navigation was founded at the New York’s Harlem Hospital Center by Dr. Harold Freeman to improve cancer mortality rates among the poor and underserved in New York. Patient navigators work one-on-one with patients to develop solutions to overcome financial, logistical, cultural, or social barriers throughout their cancer journey.
In our patient navigation programme, we ensure treatment continuity and improvement in survivorship by removing barriers to access and care. By systematically removing the barriers to timely healthcare access and ensuring that patients are supported throughout the care continuum, the proportion of patients with early stage breast cancer outcomes improved from 6% to 41%, and the 5-year survival rates rapidly increased from 39% to 70%. So far, in our demonstration project in collaboration with Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah in Klang, we have shown that patient navigation reduces the barriers to care and improves the patient adherence to therapy.
We are working with the Malaysian Ministry of Health in expanding the programme to other centres in order to improve the Malaysian survivorship of breast cancer.