A breast cancer survivor urged women who suspect they have developed the disease to muster their courage to seek treatment as soon as possible, while the Ministry of Health has warned that it is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in Cambodia.
To further raise awareness of the issue, especially among the youth, a workshop themed “Let’s talk about cancer” was held on October 29 at the Department of Media and Communication at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), with more than 100 students in attendance.
Ream Sok Chamroeurn, the breast cancer survivor, shared her story with the attendees.
“When I was first diagnosed, I dropped all of my life goals and only thought of living day to day,” she said.
Sok Chamroeurn did not know what to do as she had heard many women saying that it was rare to survive breast cancer. But she was fortunate enough to meet with medical professionals who talked her through her condition – and the best treatment options.
“The doctors played an important part in helping me to understand what was happening. They were not judgemental and did not use any inappropriate language. They examined my condition and devised the best treatment for my case,” she said.
After undergoing the prescribed treatment, she was cured.
Sok Chamroeurn urged the audience to pay close attention to their health and examine themselves regularly, as timely treatment is crucial to improving their chance of survival. After her recovery, Chamroeurn wrote a book describing her experiences of undergoing cancer treatment.
The book, “Knife Scars”, was written so she could share her experience with others.
Thou Sarameth, deputy head and co-founder of the Chakra Cancer Clinic who also attended the workshop, said most of the patients he encountered were already in critical condition.
“The patients who come to meet with me are rarely rich. Those who I examined in the first or second stages of the disease were generally in pain,” he said.
He added that when breast cancer enters the third or fourth stages, the chances of survival are reduced significantly.
“The delay in seeking treatment stems from a lack of knowledge. People don’t act quickly enough on unusual changes to their bodies. This negligence can often lead to a critical stage,” Sarameth said.
One of the students in attendance, Ly Socheata, said she had learned a lot from the three-hour workshop.
“Before, I knew almost nothing about breast cancer, but having listened to the doctors and Chamroeurn, I feel like I am much more aware now,” she added.
In Cambodia, 23 per cent of the population die of non-communicable diseases before the age of 70. Among them, 24 per cent succumbed to heart attacks, 14 per cent to cancer, four per cent to chronic respiratory disorders and two per cent to diabetes.
The health ministry reported in 2020 that cancer had taken the lead for women, with 20.25 per cent of cancer deaths coming from breast cancer, 18.93 per cent from cervical cancer and 4.77 per cent from colon cancer.
According to a 2015 study by the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer rates among the elderly will increase by almost 300 per cent, significantly faster than other ASEAN countries.