A neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that originates from the earliest forms of nerve cells. This means that the condition begins in the foetal or embryo stage, usually due to a genetic mutation. Thus, most patients are young and are under 5 years of age. In most cases, cancer starts in one of the adrenal glands or nerve tissue running alongside the spinal cord, but can also spread to other organs such as the bones, lymph nodes, and the bone marrow. As such, it can cause widespread symptoms such as bone pain and abnormal lumps in various parts of the body.
The diagnosis of a neuroblastoma may require a biopsy, various imaging scans, as well as an mIBG scan, wherein a substance taken up by neuroblastoma cells is injected into the patient’s body. Like other forms of cancer, the first line of treatment for neuroblastoma includes surgery to remove the cancer followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy to destroy all remaining cancer cells, if any. These days, however, there are more advanced treatments such as a high-dose chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant, which is now available in Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries.
To gain access to the most promising treatments available for neuroblastoma sufferers, most patients and their families consider medical tourism. While this used to be an expensive endeavour, medical travellers now have the option to go to Southeast Asia instead of flying all the way to the US or Canada. The availability of modern medical technology in the region is due mainly to the thriving medical tourism industries in some Asian countries namely Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia.
International patients travelling to Southeast Asia enjoy shorter wait times for procedures, access to the world’s most advanced treatments that are unavailable in many countries and lower healthcare and travel costs compared to flying all the way to the US and UK where the same top-notch medical technologies are also available. While the quality of healthcare in Southeast Asia is at par with what’s offered in Western countries, the costs of healthcare, airfare, and accommodation in the region are significantly lower, resulting in up to 75% cost savings for medical travellers.
Thus, it is no wonder that more and more patients are choosing to travel, especially when seeking specialised care for neuroblastoma and new, innovative stem cell treatments that are not yet available in their home countries.