2nd October 2022, Kuching: SCAN is pleased to announce that it is among 15 organisations worldwide to receive a grant from the Union for International Cancer Control for a year-long project aimed at increasing survival rates for women with breast cancer.

While breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer globally, survival rates can be higher than 80 or even 90% if detected early. Such a phenomenon is not the case in Sarawak, most notably in rural Sarawak. Many women who live in rural Sarawak with breast cancer are diagnosed late, at a stage when the cancer is harder to treat.

SCAN’s project, therefore, aims to train frontline health personnel to recognise the signs and symptoms of breast abnormalities through clinical breast examination (CBE). The skills should improve breast cancer’s early detection and diagnosis when treatment is more feasible, affordable and effective – and survival rates higher.

Advisor to SCAN, Datin Dayang Mariani, said, “We are very honoured to be one of the few selected, and we look forward to getting the project off the ground so that we can help our womenfolk, especially those in the remote areas of Sarawak to have access to early detection and treatment and close the gap in cancer care. We are also grateful to Sarawak Breast Cancer Support Group (SBCSG) for agreeing to work with us on this project”.

These grants were selected following a rigorous review by an independent Review Committee consisting of 13 international experts in breast cancer. The committee is chaired by Dr Julie Gralow, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). SCAN is one of 15 organisations out of 71 applications received.

The 15 grants address two of the three pillars of the WHO Global Breast Cancer Initiative, which aims to avert 2.5 million deaths by 2030, namely health promotion, early detection, and timely diagnosis. However, all projects also recognise the importance of and include measures to help ensure follow-up treatment and care for those diagnosed, for example, improving patient navigation and referral systems. It is critical to raise awareness and support efforts to improve early diagnosis so that these individuals have access to the necessary treatment and care if diagnosed.

Sarawak is a vast land and home to over 30 indigenous groups. Dr Melissa Lim, a founding member and a Committee Member of (SCAN), will lead the project. She said, “where you live should not determine if you live. Rural populations are usually diagnosed at later stages and are less likely to receive timely, let alone appropriate treatments to ensure their chance at survival. The lack of prevention, screening and treatment services often involves logistic issues, financial burden, and lack of awareness are big gaps compounded by their lower-income and older populations. Our duty as patient organisation groups is to make sure that no one is left behind and that they can see many tomorrows.” Melissa was also elected as UICC’s Young Leader 2021/2022 for her work in cancer control.

The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) www.uicc.org is the largest and oldest international cancer-fighting organisation. Founded in Geneva in 1933, UICC has over 1,200 member organisations in 172 countries. UICC’s mission is to unite and support the cancer community in its efforts to reduce the global cancer burden, promote more significant equity and ensure that cancer control remains a priority on the global health and development agenda. It pursues these goals by bringing together global leaders through innovative and far-reaching cancer-control events and initiatives, building capacities to meet regional needs and developing awareness campaigns.