BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Health will begin screening Bruneians and permanent residents for colon and breast cancers from November 26 to reduce their risk of early death.
The voluntary screening is available at all government health centres and clinics nationwide, the minister of health announced in a press conference on Tuesday.
YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said colon and breast cancer were the most common cancers among men and women respectively in 2018.
He said the health screening aimed to detect the cancers early and prevent premature mortality before the age of 70.
The minister said one in four people are at risk of developing cancer in Brunei, with women more susceptible than men. The risk of women developing cancer is 29 percent compared to 27 percent for men.
The top cancers in 2018 among men were colon, lung, prostate and liver. Breast cancer is the most common for women, followed by colon, uterine and cervical cancer.
Last year, 644 people were diagnosed with cancer while 304 people died from cancer, accounting for 19 percent of the country’s cause of death.
The number of cancer patients has increased by 17 percent in the last five years, from 2014 to 2018, compared to 2009 to 2013.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said the burden borne by individuals and the community is significant as the disease can have a negative impact on the nation’s socio-economic development, including decrease in productivity, absenteeism and high healthcare spending.
Early detection of cancer (pre-cancer) can improve the chances of being treated including avoiding the need for invasive major treatments such as surgeries.
“This method is by no means new, but in this country we have always been conducting opportunistic screenings. Therefore, most cancers in this country are only detected or diagnosed at a later stage,” he added.
The cancer screening is a follow-up of the National Health Screening Programme introduced earlier this year to curb chronic diseases.
Head of Non-communicable Diseases Prevention Unit Dr Ong Sok King said preliminary studies have indicated that a third of 1,000 people who had undergone the health check-up were obese.
“Half [of the health screening patients] were found to have high cholesterol levels and 10 percent were found to have hypertension and high blood sugar levels,” she added.
Screening helps to identify whether a person has a particular disease or medical condition even if they are not showing any symptoms. It also allows the person to get early treatment, resulting in better outcomes, Dr Ong said.
The colon cancer screening involves testing a stool sample in a lab to be checked for any presence of blood using the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT).
Eligibility for colon cancer screening:
- Citizens and permanent residents of Brunei aged from 50 to 75
- No current or previous history of colorectal cancer
- Have not had a colonoscopy done within the past 10 years
- Have not had a stool test to detect blood done within the past three years
The breast cancer screening involves performing a mammogram, which is an x-ray machine that takes pictures of the breasts to detect cancer.
Eligibility for breast cancer screening:
- Any woman who is a Brunei citizen or permanent resident aged from 40 to 69.
- No known history of breast cancer
- No previous history of breast diseases
- Has not had a mammogram screening in the last three years
There are three ways of registering for the cancer screening – walk-in registration at any health centre, download the form and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and online registration through e-Darussalam.
After the registration, the date and time of appointment will be given via SMS. For Temburong district, the screening will be conducted at PIHM Hospital.
Patients are advised to register with the Brunei Darussalam Healthcare Information and Management System (Bru-HIMS) if they do not have a Bru-HIMS number yet.