An estimated 60 percent of cancer cases in the country are detected at late stages, either Stage III or IV, said Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.
He said among the main factors for the late detection were lack of awareness on the importance of screening and early detection among Malaysians.
“We need to dispel myths, false information and misunderstanding among Malaysians who are reluctant to undergo screening or those who choose to delay early treatment, but believe in treatment which has yet to be proven effective,” he said in a statement in conjunction with World Cancer Day 2019, which is celebrated on Feb 4 every year.
Dzulkefly said cancer was now the second highest cause of death among Malaysians after heart disease.
According to him, the three most common cancers among men in Malaysia are colorectal (16.4 percent), lung (15.8 percent), and nasopharynx (8.1 percent), while the most common cancers among women are breast (32.1 percent), colorectal (10.7 percent) and cervix 7.7 percent).
The number of cases is expected to increase in the near future, he said, and attributed it to the high prevalence of non-communicable disease (NCD) risk factors and the ageing population.
He said the Health Ministry provided screening services for four types of cancers, namely breast, cervix, colorectal and oral cancer at government health clinics nationwide.
Screening for high-risk individuals for specific cancers such as liver, prostate and nasopharynx are also available at government hospitals, he added.