Cancer. A 6-letter word that nobody ever wishes to hear from their doctor. Unfortunately, the reality is that everyone of us knows someone who has or had cancer. We’ve even lost friends and family to this dreaded C.
Despite the prevalence of the disease, most of us don’t really know much about the disease itself. Perhaps ignorance is bliss but after attending a blogger workshop on lung cancer & melanoma recently, I’ve come to realise that it’s very important to be educated about cancer treatment options – especially immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy is a new treatment option for lung cancer and melanoma. Do you know that 10 Malaysians die from lung cancer, every single day? The mortality rate for lung cancer is also scarily high, more than 80%. However, now with immunotherapy, lung cancer patients have far better shots at living.
So what is immunotherapy? How does it work? Dr. Tho Lye Mun gave us a comprehensive but simple-to-understand presentation on the treatment at the blogger workshop.
It is a treatment that uses certain parts of a person’s immune system to fight cancer without the dreadful side effects that we all know of from other conventional cancer treatments. With lesser and milder side effects (they are only about as bad as regular flu symptoms), patients are able to lead better quality lives. Unlike conventional treatments, immunotherapy also does not damage healthy cells, so the rate of infections will definitely be lower, hence the potential for also extending long-term survival.
Listening to Niki Cheong who shared his personal stories of losing friends and family to cancer at the workshop was really heart-breaking. I was very young when my grandfather passed away from cancer so I didn’t feel much but as an adult now I can imagine the anguish. To watch somebody you love slowly being chipped away by the damn cancer. Early detection is the key, of course and often survival rate from cancer is a lot higher with early detection. That said, not many are lucky to catch it early on. Consider this, 9 out of 10 patients are diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer. It’s heart-breaking.
After I posted about my experience at the lung cancer workshop on Facebook, I reconnected with a former college-mate, Sharizan. She revealed to me that she’s suffering from lung cancer that has metastasised to her brain. When I found out she was undergoing immunotherapy, I was relieved for her as I reckoned she’d have much better chance at survival with immunotherapy. She too attested to the effectiveness of the treatment. It’s given her a better quality of time and a renewed sense of hope that she may have a chance at survival.
However, when she told me about the costs, I was shocked. It’s not cheap and she had already exhausted her insurance, so she was going to stop her treatment and seek help at government institutions with conventional treatment aka chemotherapy. After learning what I’ve learned from the blogger workshop, I was crushed by her news.
I understand why immunotherapy is expensive – it’s the years and millions and millions of dollars invested into the research of this life-changing treatment. So ladies and gentlemen, if you’re reading this, do check your insurance policies. Personally, after listening to Sha, I have contacted my insurance agent and updated my policy to increase my annual limit to accommodate inflation and the high cost of current hospital treatments. I had already forgotten what I was entitled to in my insurance policy so I was very surprised to learn that the policy I got 5 years ago, which was pretty comprehensive back then, could barely cover a treatment such as immunotherapy now! So yeah, check and upgrade your insurance policies guys!
As for Sharizan, we are raising funds for her immunotherapy treatments at GIVE.asia. You can also read about her plight at the website. Please do help give my friend a shot at life, thank you!
Anyway, I digressed. My point is, get educated about cancer. Learn about its treatments! Don’t get caught off-guard. Cancer affects everybody, not just the patients and you’re better off with some good knowledge in hand.