Another year has passed and it was a bad year as far as fighting against cancer is concerned. The Health Ministry released the official figures which showed that 1 in 4 Malaysians are at risk of getting cancer, which is the same risk as in most developed countries. This is one area where we don’t want to catch up with them!

The sad thing is that cancers are still on the rise even though many of the risk factors have been identified, and most are modifiable. The risk factors related to our diet and lifestyle can be reduced, if only we are disciplined enough to follow the advice given.

Perhaps the most important avoidable risk factor is smoking. In spite of numerous evidences of the health hazards of smoking ( cancers and heart disease being only two of these ), there seems to be no progress in the efforts to curtail this harmful habit. Although many programmes and campaigns are held to discourage smoking, these are pale in comparison with the billion-dollar advertising and promotions by the cigarette companies. What is worse is that youths and women are joining the ranks of smokers in droves, with the higher standard of living, and the “cool” lifestyle promoted by the cigarette promotions.

Lung cancer remains the top cancer (both sexes combined), and the number is increasing as more people smoke. Since 90% of lung cancers are directly related to smoking, and about half of adult Malaysian males smoke, you can imagine how many out there are just waiting to get lung cancer, if they don’t already have it. They are also predisposed to other cancers as well as other lung diseases like asthma, bronchitis, bronchiectasis and emphysema. The health risk of exposure to second-hand smoke is also significant.

Although the cigarette companies and tobacco growers do benefit from the industry, the wastages, health hazards and sufferings that smoking ultimately causes ( smokers who get the chronic diseases, their children who suffer more lung problems, and the entire family when the smokers die prematurely ) all outweigh whatever benefit there is to the nation.

The amount of money each smoker spends ( estimated average at least RM10,000 over 20 years of heavy smoking ) can be put to better use for the family’s needs – be it accommodation, health, education or recreation. The money spent to treat health problems due to smoking can be many times more.

The amount of money the government spends in providing the health facilities to treat smoking-related diseases must be many times more that the revenue derived. However,
because the revenue collected is direct and obvious, while the money spent is indirect and spread over a long time, this may not be apparent.

Although the cigarette companies still continue to dispute the health hazards, the medical evidence is overwhelming, and based on this, many ex-smokers have successfully sued the cigarette companies in USA. The evidence against smoking is so convincing that even the courts accept them! Yet we here have a problem in educating and convincing the public of these facts.

So apart from fighting corruption, I propose that the government put more political will in its efforts to stop its citizens from smoking. A caring government must look at what is good for the people, and not just the interest of a small though powerful group.

Another sad story is about the deaths from cervical cancer. It is still the number two cancer in our women, when actually it should not be so with the advent of Pap smears. In countries where the women do their Pap smears regularly, cervical cancer is rare. It is a pity that the numerous cancer-awareness campaigns have not achieved the desired results. Many educated and well-informed women still do not have their Pap smears done as advised. With Pap smear screening, we are able to detect even precancerous conditions and appropriate treatment can avoid cancer from ever developing. Better understanding of the disease ( HPV or human papilloma virus as causative agent or culprit ) and new diagnostic technologies ( better specimen collection methods, and DNA testing for HPV ) have further improved our accuracy and success rates in fighting cervical cancers. But only women who come for screening can be helped. If you don’t have your Pap smear done, all these technologies will not benefit you.

The increase in breast cancers among women is alarming. Breast cancer is the top female cancer, and is affecting younger women too. Although there is controversy over the effectiveness of breast self-examination (BSE) and mammograms, the current consensus is that BSE should be done regularly, and the benefits of mammograms outweigh the risks for women above 40 ( see CA: A Journal for Clinicians, May/June 2003 issue ). Although these are screening tests to detect early cancer, not to avoid cancer, it is still important to catch cancers in the early stage when the chance of cure is higher. Since all the preventive measures still cannot guarantee against cancer starting, early detection screening programmes must continue.

This week a close friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer, not long after her younger sister had it. Earlier, the same happened to another friend, who was diagnosed with breast cancer just 6 months after her sister. Our PM’s wife was also diagnosed with breast cancer soon after her twin sister had it.

Although there is a strong genetic risk for breast cancers in some families ( carriers of breast cancer genes ), most of breast cancers are not gene-related. There is suspicion that the environmental pollution plays a major role in the development of breast cancer, as studies on breast tissues have shown high levels of synthetic and toxic chemicals. The effect of synthetic substances like plastic which may mimic the estrogens, and the use and abuse of hormones including the contraceptive pill and HRT, are other possible contributing factors.

What is the role of Qigong? I have shared in several previous articles that Qigong has been found to be beneficial in helping cancer patients recover from their illness. My previous involvement with the Guolin Qigong Association enabled me to meet the cancer survivors, many of whom had been told they were terminal with no hope of recovery. Yet, they recovered fully and became even healthier than before! All styles of Qigong are beneficial for health, but Guolin Qigong is most proven to be effective for cancer patients. And the best exercise for this purpose is the Amazing Qigong Walk.

Those who have learned this walk will agree with me that it is very enjoyable, especially done among the fresh air and green trees of a park or lake gardens. If you have cancer, I strongly encourage you to learn and practice this walk. Enjoy yourself while you help your body fight the cancer!

For Muslims, I have shared that the most disciplined manner of performing their ritual prayer is similar to Qigong, and that qi actually flows during such a prayer. So if they perform the prayers regularly, it is also like doing Qigong every time. Those who are concerned about their health should improve their prayers so that they get healthier every time they pray. This is a poorly-understood benefit of the ritual prayer.

Although we have no proof that Qigong prevents cancer, it is logical that if even advanced cancer can be reversed, than it should also prevent cancer from ever starting.

With the threat of cancer ever increasing, I hope all the Qigong associations will increase their activities to inform and encourage the public to take up this very beneficial exercise so that the sufferings from cancers and other diseases can be reduced. The National Cancer Society now offers Qigong to its patients.

I hope other institutions involved in cancer-prevention and treatment will also consider adding Qigong as one of the activities for an anti-cancer lifestyle advised to the public and patients.


Dr Amir Farid Isahak
Categories: Uncategorized

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