Building Soft Skills

Malaysia’s Cancer Information Service Helpline

National Cancer Society Malaysia

The Cancer Information Service Helpline was launched at the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) in April 2016. While NCSM has offered information and emotional support since it was founded, this service is now formalised under the helpline. It includes: a phone-and-software system, guidelines and procedures recommended by the ICISG, and staff from professional health sectors.

At the set up, we were challenged by three things in Malaysia: little expertise in cancer counselling, the lack of a comprehensive directory of cancer resources and health professionals who are assistance driven.

As a result, the Helpline nurses were focused on providing information to enquirers, instead of addressing their emotional needs (including active listening and prompting for other troubles).

To address these problems, we arranged for active listening workshops from Befrienders – the first suicide helpline in Malaysia. They were immensely beneficial as Befrienders focus solely on providing emotional support, which balanced the nurses’ previous mind set of providing only information.

The nurses also performed another role: cataloguing cancer services in the country. This allowed us to navigate patients through services – financial, support – of the Government, hospitals and civil societies.

Trainers from Befrienders commented that our CIS Helpline is a rare hybrid of information and emotional support. As call services in Malaysia provide either element, and seldom both, the CIS team has to learn through experience on balancing the two needs. This, along with meeting these needs through email as well, are our current challenges. We anticipate on filling these gaps.

For further information contact Mandy Thoo