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Dr Mohamed Ibrahim. Beacon Hospital

Article Summary:

The Star – 22 November 2021

Cancer patients are often left scrambling on their journey as there are so many aspects of care and management to be tackled. After vigorous diagnostic procedures, a treatment plan will be formulated by their oncologist. However, patients frequently have to seek treatment from multiple institutions or healthcare providers, which makes the cancer journey fragmented and complicated.

Cancer can also be draining financially, especially when patients don’t know how or where to go to for assistance. That’s the situation Fara Aida Farid, 48, found herself in after she no longer had employer insurance coverage when she quit her job in 2014. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and sought treatment at a private hospital until 2013.

She shares: “One day in 2017, I noticed a skin lesion on my right breast and I knew I had to seek medical advice. That’s when I was told the cancer had returned.”

What patients like Fara need is a one-stop cancer centre or integrated cancer care that can help ease some of the difficulties of the cancer journey. An integrated approach provides the patient with the usual cancer management and treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, behavioural health services, nutritional support and other conventional tools, while also supporting their strength, stamina and quality of life with vocational therapies and counselling.

Instead of running from one place to the other, or giving up on treatment altogether due to financial hardship, cancer patients can greatly benefit from such integrated cancer care.

One of Asia’s first connected oncology networks is Integrated Oncology Centres, which recently partnered with Beacon Hospital in Malaysia to provide this one-stop service. According to consultant oncologist Dato’ Dr Mohamed Ibrahim, cancer treatment is becoming more and more specialised.

“The step-by-step process is the same everywhere, but the key question to ask is if the hospital has the same facilities available. When all the facilities are available, patients can get all the required treatment and services in a one place,” he says.

Dato’ Dr Ibrahim adds that if patients have exhausted their insurance and need chemotherapy in a private hospital, the cost can go up to RM6,000 per cycle, with six cycles resulting in a total cost of RM36,000.

If a hospital has a corporate social responsibility (CSR) fund, patients can apply for funding, and if approved, they only need to pay a fraction of the amount (e.g. RM500 per cycle at Beacon Hospital). Patients don’t need to go elsewhere to seek financial help.

Beyond medications, therapies and finances, a one-stop centre also offers support and educational programmes that help patients deal with the emotional and physical effects of cancer and prepare them for a healthier life after treatment.

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