KUALA LUMPUR • The badminton world was left stunned before regrouping to offer its support after it was announced that Malaysian star and former world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei has been diagnosed with nose cancer.
Lee, who won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April, is in Taiwan receiving treatment for the disease which is still in its early stages and is responding well, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) said in a statement.
"Chong Wei is in Taiwan seeking treatment and I am pleased to inform you that he is responding well... and is currently resting and recuperating among family and close friends," said BAM's president, Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria.
"On behalf of Chong Wei, I would like to thank all Malaysians for your prayers and concern. Your support has been his source of strength and courage. We urge everyone to respect his privacy and that of his family," he added.
The confirmation came after the revelation of a social media post claiming that Lee has been diagnosed with stage-3 nose cancer.
The 35-year-old, who is ranked fourth in the world, has won 69 international titles and is a three-time Olympic silver medallist. He withdrew from July's World Championships in China and August's Asian Games in Indonesia due to what BAM said at the time was a "respiratory-related disorder".
Symptoms of nose cancer
Nose cancer, also known as nasopharynx cancer, is the ninth most common type of cancer among men in Singapore.
Between 2011 and 2015, there were 1,073 new cases (or 3.4 per cent of total cases) among men, according to the latest cancer registry report published in June last year.
It is a cancer that affects younger Singaporeans, with the majority affected between the ages of 40 and 65.
Some of the common symptoms are:
• Nasal obstruction or stuffiness
• Trouble hearing or hearing loss and/or sense of fullness or pain, caused by build-up of fluid in the middle ear space
• Persistent sore throat
• Trouble breathing or speaking
• Frequent nose bleeds
• Pain or ringing in the ear
• Pain, numbness, or paralysis in the face
• Frequent headaches
• Difficulty opening the mouth
• Blurred or double vision
• Unexplained weight loss
According to the National University Hospital website, nose cancer is a highly curable malignancy that is generally managed using high-dose radiation therapy or X-ray therapy, occasionally in combination with chemotherapy injections.
One may not experience all of the above symptoms, or may experience none of them, but still be diagnosed with nose cancer.
People who encounter any of these warning signs should consult a doctor immediately.
Before that, Lee seemed to be back in top shape this year, when he ended Kento Momota's winning streak in the Malaysian Open final and clinched his 12th Malaysia Open title.
He is expected to return home after completing his treatment at the end of the month.
The news of his illness shocked the badminton world yesterday.
Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew, who lost to Lee in the Commonwealth Games quarter-finals, told The Sunday Times: "Like many avid badminton fans and players alike, the news definitely came as a shock to me.
"(Lee) is someone I truly respect. He is inspiring, displays sportsmanship and fighting spirit on and off the court. I hope he will ... get back on court with full health and capabilities as soon as possible. Let's pray for his recovery."
Malaysia's national singles coach Hendrawan also called for Lee to be given more space as he undergoes treatment, adding that the player should be allowed to decide if he wishes to call time on his career.
"Everything started during the Indonesia Open (in July). Chong Wei had complained that he was tired and it was also the first time I had seen him competing without his usual strength," the New Straits Times quoted Hendrawan as saying.
"When we returned to Malaysia, Chong Wei did a medical check-up and informed me when he got the doctor's report. Of course I was shocked. I have been in contact with him since he went to Taiwan for treatment. He told me the treatment is going well.
"Let him fully recover before we discuss whether he will continue playing or not. What is important now is his health."
• Additional reporting by David Lee