The latest figures from the Vietnam Cancer Association show that 150,000 new cases of cancer are reported in the country every year and 75,000 die of the disease.

"Cancer is now the biggest killer and the number of new cancer patients is on the rise year after year," Nguyen Chan Hung, chairman of the Vietnam Oncology Association, said.

The country has six oncology hospitals and oncology departments at 35 hospitals, far short of the required number.

Many cancer patients have to seek treatment abroad in countries like Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the US, and mainland China.

Almost 250,000 patients are currently undergoing treatment.

Le Hoang Minh, director of the cancer hospital in Ho Chi Minh City , said the hospital receives an average of 1,500 cancer patients every day, and the number is increasing by 5-7 percent every year.

Experts warn of the problem of late diagnosis among local patients, while it is well established that diagnosing and treating cancer in the early stages dramatically increases the chance of saving the patient.

A survey by Hanoi-based K Hospital between October 2011 and April 2012 of 400 cancer patients showed that 79 percent of them were diagnosed and received treatment only in the III and IV stages.

Twenty one percent sought treatment only six months after the signs and symptoms of cancer had appeared.

Experts blame this on the lack of information and understanding about cancers.

Thirty percent of the survey respondents said they had not heard about cancer, and 61 percent had not known about surgery in cancer treatment.-VNA