Stories and Advances in Childhood Cancer Treatment in Malaysia

Dr Chan Lee Lee, Consultant Paediatric Haemoto-oncologist, Subang Jaya Medical Centre | Ethan Ryan, Leukaemia Survivor

Leukaemia: The Most Common Childhood Cancer in Malaysia

Cancer in children is uncommon, but leukaemia, a type of cancer that originates in the bone marrow and affects blood-forming tissues, resulting in the overproduction of abnormal white blood cells, is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among children. While this leukaemia diagnosis can be devastating for families, with early detection and effective cancer treatment, children diagnosed with this childhood leukaemia have significantly better outcomes.

Featuring Dr Chan Lee Lee (Consultant Paediatric Haemato-Oncologist), a children's cancer specialist at Subang Jaya Medical Centre, and Ethan Ryan, an SJMC cancer survivor, here to tell us more on the BFM x SJMC podcast.

About the Cancer Survivor: Ethan Ryan's Journey

Ethan Ryan, an 11-year-old childhood leukaemia survivor, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) at the age of two and a half. ALL involves the lymphocyte or white blood cell line, and it grows rapidly, overwhelming the body's ability to fight infections. In this podcast, Ethan shares his journey from diagnosis to recovery showcasing the effectiveness of early treatment and comprehensive medical care.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Leukemia

Ethan's parents first realised something was wrong when they noticed he was unusually tired and pale. He had frequent fevers and unexplained bruises on his body. These symptoms, though common in various minor illnesses, persisted and raised concerns. The combination of fatigue, frequent infections, and easy bruising led his parents to seek medical advice. Dr. Chan Lee Lee emphasises that early detection of such symptoms is crucial for a timely diagnosis and effective treatment.

Early Diagnosis and Effective Childhood Leukemia Treatment

Early diagnosis of leukaemia involves recognising the persistent and unusual symptoms that children exhibit, such as chronic fatigue, frequent infections, easy bruising, and paleness. Parents who notice these signs should promptly consult a healthcare provider. Diagnostic procedures include blood tests, which often reveal abnormalities in white blood cell counts, and a bone marrow biopsy to confirm the presence of leukaemia cells.

Effective treatment for childhood leukaemia typically involves a multi-phase approach:

  1. Induction Chemotherapy: 

    This initial phase aims to eliminate as many leukaemia cells as possible from the blood and bone marrow. It involves intensive chemotherapy, often requiring hospital stays.
  2. Consolidation Therapy:

    Following induction, this phase focuses on eradicating any remaining cancer cells to prevent a relapse. It includes additional chemotherapy and sometimes other treatments like radiation.
  3. Maintenance Therapy:

    This long-term phase continues for several years to ensure the leukaemia stays in remission. It involves lower doses of chemotherapy and regular monitoring.
  4. Supportive Care:

    Throughout all phases, supportive care is crucial to manage side effects and complications. This includes medications to prevent infections, nutritional support, and psychological support for both the patient and their family.

The Rate of Childhood Cancer in Malaysia

In Malaysia, childhood cancer, including leukaemia, remains a significant health concern. Leukaemia accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancers in the country, making it the most common type. The survival rate for childhood leukaemia in Malaysia has improved over the years, thanks to advancements in medical treatments and increased awareness. However, early detection and access to comprehensive care continue to be crucial in improving outcomes.

The Role of SJMC in Childhood Cancer Treatment

SJMC has been at the forefront of childhood cancer treatment in Malaysia, offering advanced medical care and a supportive environment for patients and their families. The hospital's multidisciplinary approach ensures that every aspect of the child's health is addressed, from medical treatment to emotional well-being.

Dr. Chan Lee Lee and her team's dedication to their patients is evident in the success stories like Ethan's. Their commitment to continuous improvement in cancer treatment and patient care has made a significant impact on the lives of many children diagnosed with leukaemia in Malaysia.

In conclusion, while childhood leukaemia remains a significant challenge, advances in medical treatment and comprehensive care approaches have greatly improved the prognosis for young patients. Ethan Ryan's journey is a testament to the effectiveness of early detection, rigorous treatment, and the invaluable support of dedicated healthcare professionals and loving families.


Find out more about Subang Jaya Medical Centre Cancer Care & Treatments