KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — For many, it merely takes a devastating event or a health scare to change their perspective on how they view life.

That was the case for prominent corporate figure Tan Sri Nazir Razak when his life unexpectedly took a sharp turn three years ago after a shocking discovery.

In 2019, the veteran banker sought to buy an insurance product which required him to do a thorough health screening as part of the process.

The medical check-up then led to an unexpected discovery that caught him by surprise.


He was diagnosed with prostate cancer despite having no symptoms or any health issues.

Fortunately, the cancer was at an early stage with a 90 per cent survival rate.

However, he needed to start the treatment immediately as the cancer was about to spread, and if that had happened, the survival rate would have dropped to 25 per cent.


“I was shocked,” Nazir said while recalling the dark episode which he calls “the painful few months”.

Although he has now fully recovered from the disease, Nazir said he may not go back to how he was prior to the diagnosis.

“Even the mildest form of cancer or just the word cancer will automatically trigger thoughts about your mortality.

“That can definitely change your perspective towards life.”

Prior to the diagnosis, Nazir said he used to have a stressful life due to work and he feels that could have been a contributing factor to his cancer.

For the uninitiated, Nazir — who is the youngest son of Malaysia’s second prime minister, the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein — is known for his integral role in shaping and transforming CIMB Group Holdings Berhad into a leading regional financial group it is today.

He spent nearly three decades at the banking group, where he served as a group chief executive officer for 15 years and group chairman for four years before stepping down in 2018.

Today, he prefers to prioritise things that matter to him and spend his time doing what he has on his bucket list besides running his own private equity firm.

“I now do things that I always wanted to do but never had the time.

“You never know when the time is up, so you want to get it done.”

Becoming a prostate cancer advocate

Apart from travelling and fulfilling his bucket list, Nazir is also an active prostate cancer advocate to educate others about the ‘silent killer’.

In 2020, he kicked off a five-year campaign with the Universiti Malaya’s Urological Cancer Trust Fund to create awareness about prostate cancer and encourage early detection.

“Our goal is to educate people that the key to survival is early detection.”

The campaign took a systematic approach with ground activities, radio announcements in various languages as well as training sessions for doctors.

“It’s definitely not an issue that we can solve overnight but we do our bit to educate more people.

“As long as one or more people get saved because of my efforts, I’ll be happy.”

Nazir said prostate cancer is treatable with a high survival rate if it is caught at an early stage.

He, however, said if the cancer is out of the prostate and spreads to other organs, it can be highly fatal.

In Malaysia, prostate cancer is the third most common cancer among men after lung and colorectal cancers.

According to the latest National Cancer Registry report, about 60 per cent of prostate cancer diagnoses in Malaysia were at stages three and four while 40 per cent were caught early at stages one and two.

Nazir said the main goal of his campaign is to reduce the percentage of late-stage diagnoses through awareness efforts about regular screenings.

One of the awareness initiatives is the Blue Cap Relay Run which is making a comeback for its third time after a five-year hiatus.

The Blue Cap Relay Run will take place on September 24 at Universiti Malaya with an aim to raise awareness about prostate cancer. — Picture courtesy of Urological Cancer Trust Fund, Universiti Malaya
The Blue Cap Relay Run will take place on September 24 at Universiti Malaya with an aim to raise awareness about prostate cancer. — Picture courtesy of Urological Cancer Trust Fund, Universiti Malaya

The 9km relay is expected to attract over 1,000 participants on September 24 at the Universiti Malaya campus.

The participation fee for the general public, cancer survivors and family is RM150, RM90 and RM100 respectively.

Registration can be done online over here.

Malay Mail is the official media partner for the run.