SELANGOR, December 7 2023 — Roche (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, the pharmaceutical division, hosted a panel discussion in collaboration with the Lung Cancer Network Malaysia (LCNM). The event, titled ‘A Breath Of Fresh Hope’ focused on an in-depth conversation about the alarming prevalence of lung cancer in non-smoking Malaysian women, addressing the social stigma and related medical implications.
Over 2.2 million lung cancer cases were reported in 2020 globally, and more than 770,000 of them were in women1 . Skyrocketing by a massive 79 per cent2 in the past few decades, that brings lung cancer to the list of the top three types of malignancies seen in the global female population, right after breast and colorectal3 .
Moderated by Ms. Deepti Saraf, General Manager of Roche Malaysia, the panel consisted of Dr. Anand Sachithanandan, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon and Co-Founder of LCNM; Dr Jennifer Leong, Consultant Clinical Oncologist and Associate Professor Dr. Caryn Mei Hsien Chan, Consultant Health Psychologist.
All three specialists emphasised the need to increase access to diagnostic and therapeutic tools for women battling with lung cancer — a commonly overlooked patient demographic who account for a significant portion of the national disease burden.
“Less than 2% of women here are smokers, but lung cancer is the fourth most common malignancy5 ,” shared Dr. Anand. “There is a genuine lack of awareness amongst both the general public and doctors as well about factors other than smoking that predispose women to lung cancer — secondhand smoke, high levels of exposure to air pollution, asbestos or radon. A family history for the disease is another significant risk factor that is often overlooked.” According to Dr Anand, lung cancer is no longer a male smokers disease but if detected early, it can be treated effectively and often cured.
The conversation is a timely conclusion of the recent global lung cancer awareness month in November, reiterating the significance of continued awareness. Roche has been at the forefront of leading initiatives that bring forth neglected disease areas into the public sphere. Highlighting the consequential nature of stirring such dialogue, Deepti noted, “Last month we celebrated Lung Cancer Awareness month with a lot of important conversations about the burden of the disease especially in women. Women’s cancers and diseases like lung cancer need stronger focus, policies and investment from the system to diagnose and treat it earlier with an integrated approach.”
Aside from the medical implications, the panel also discussed the barriers to seeking a proper diagnosis, especially for women of younger age, underscoring the implications of the social stigma. “Many women harbour the preconceived notion that because they don’t smoke, they are not at risk of lung cancer. This is a dangerous misconception to have. At times, even when displaying typical symptoms, they can easily get missed and not get the required medical attention in the earlier stages of disease, affecting their chances at longer survival,” explained Dr. Jennifer.
Prof. Caryn further elaborated on the mental health burden seen in cancer patients, and how it’s a commonly neglected aspect of cancer treatment, “Getting diagnosed with cancer is an extremely significant life event for patients, for obvious reasons. There is a significant group of them who never reach the point of seeking professional help to process the grief, and the effects of it can end up exacerbating their already declining physical health,” she added, stating why both the extremes of despair and toxic positivity can harm patients and their families’ wellbeing.
The insightful panel session came to an end with a call to action, encouraging everyone to assume responsibility for their well-being and a heightened awareness of potential risk factors.
“A heightened awareness of risk factors that translate to actionable steps like regular health screenings is the key to changing the lung cancer landscape in Malaysia,” concluded Deepti.
“There is also a need to bolster the infrastructure of oncology care and work towards equitable therapeutic access for women with lung cancer, regardless of their socio-economic status. Both Roche and LCNM are dedicated in their support for the cause, and are exploring future collaborations for continued advocacy.”
Roche is a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics focused on advancing science to improve people’s lives. The combined strengths of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, as well as growing capabilities in the area of data-driven medical insights help Roche deliver truly personalised healthcare. Roche is working with partners across the healthcare sector to provide the best care for each person.
Roche is the world’s largest biotech company, with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and diseases of the central nervous system. Roche is also the world leader in in vitro diagnostics and tissue-based cancer diagnostics, and a frontrunner in diabetes management. In recent years, Roche has invested in genomic profiling and real-world data partnerships and has become an industry-leading partner for medical Insights.
Founded in 1896, Roche continues to search for better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and make a sustainable contribution to society. The company also aims to improve patient access to medical innovations by working with all relevant stakeholders. More than thirty medicines developed by Roche are included in the World Health Organization Model Lists of Essential Medicines, among them life-saving antibiotics, antimalarials and cancer medicines. Moreover, for the twelfth consecutive year, Roche has been recognised as one of the most sustainable companies in the Pharmaceuticals Industry by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI).
The Roche Group, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, is active in over 100 countries and in 2020 employed more than 100,000 people worldwide. In 2020, Roche invested CHF 12.2 billion in R&D and posted sales of CHF 58.3 billion. Genentech, in the United States, is a wholly owned member of the Roche
Group. Roche is the majority shareholder in Chugai Pharmaceutical, Japan. For more information, please visit
Roche has been present in Malaysia since 1972, when the sales and distribution of products was managed by a third party distributor. Since then, Roche has established its operations to include Roche (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd., the pharmaceutical business; Roche Diagnostics (M) Sdn. Bhd., the diagnostics business and Roche Services (Asia Pacific) Sdn. Bhd. (also referred to as Roche Services & Solutions APAC). With a total staff strength of over 1,200, Roche has grown into one of the leading healthcare companies in Malaysia that provides holistic healthcare solutions to healthcare practitioners and patients. For more information, please visit
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About Lung Cancer Network Malaysia (LCNM)
LCNM was established in late 2018 by two medical specialists – Dr Anand Sachithanandan, a cardiothoracic surgeon and Dr Tho Lye Mun, a clinical oncologist – and officially launched on World Lung Cancer Day (1 st August) 2019. A not-for-profit disease-centric NGO, LCNM is dedicated solely and exclusively to addressing all aspects and all stages of lung cancer here including preventative (tobacco control) strategies, screening of high risk individuals, diagnosis, staging and treatment with both a curative and palliative intent.
With a multi disciplinary network of highly trained medical specialists from the public, academic and private healthcare sectors, and allied healthcare professionals including dietitians, pharmacists, physiotherapists and psychologists, LCNM seeks to provide a holistic and comprehensive approach to improve outcomes through advocacy, education and awareness for both the public and doctors in primary care. This is reflected in the Society’s tagline “Conquering Lung Cancer Together”. The Society seeks to promote evidence-based scientific recommendations in an easy-to -understand manner, to help patients & their families, doctors and other caregivers better navigate their cancer journey. Additionally, LCNM aims to destigmatise the disease, debunk erroneous myths and misconceptions surrounding lung cancer and its treatments, and promote credible local research. For more information, do log onto Lungcancer.net.my
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1. The Global Cancer Observatory. (2021). In World Health Organization. Globocan 2020.
2. Seer Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2018 (2021, April) SEER. Available at:
3. Worldwide cancer data. (2021). World Cancer Research Fund International.
4. Prevalence of smoking for females Malaysia 2000-2020. (2023, October 4). Statista Research Department.
5. Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report. (2019, June). Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia.
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