Colorectal cancer remains one of top cancers
An FOBT, a preliminary screening test for colorectal cancer, can help reduce mortality rates.
Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) is targeting to screen 35,000 members of the public in its year-long Colorectal Cancer Awareness Campaign (CCAM 2011), which started March 1, 2011. Now in its 10th year, the campaign titled “Just 1 more minute could save your life” encourages individuals, aged 50 years and above, to do the Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), a preliminary screening test for colorectal cancer.
The FOBT detects the presence of non-visible blood in the stool and it has proven to be an effective screening tool for colorectal cancer, which reduces cancer mortality rates. Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable cancers when it is caught early.
According to the latest Singapore Cancer Registry Report (1968-2007), colorectal cancer overtook lung cancer in 2003 to be the top cancer among men and has remained as the second most common cancer among women since 1973. Each year, 1,455 Singaporeans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and 638 die from it. This is a 19 percent increase compared to about 10 years ago.
SCS has been providing the free FOBT kits to the community since the start of the Colorectal Screening Programme in 2002. The number of people who collected the kits has increased significantly by more than 40 percent over a three-year period from 22,510 in 2008 to 32,416 in 2010.
In 2010, 800 individuals with positive FOBT results were referred for colonoscopy. Of these, 143 were found to have pre-cancerous polyps and 28 cases of cancer were diagnosed. Two were found to have advanced colorectal cancer, while the other 26 had either stage 0, 1, 2 or 3, which are potentially curable with surgery. The early detection has allowed the cancer to be picked up and treated earlier, hence resulting in a higher chance of cure. As such, the 2010 campaign has helped to save 169 lives.
“More people are aware of colorectal cancer now as compared to 10 years ago, but that hasn’t stopped the disease from becoming the top cancer in Singapore,” said Assoc Prof Tang Choong Leong, chairman of the CCAM Organising Committee and senior consultant colorectal surgeon at Singapore General Hospital. “There is the common perception that ‘ignorance is bliss’ and people would rather not find out, but it is important to protect yourself and your loved ones by going for regular screening annually, especially if you fall within the age group of 50 years and above.”
Saving a life
Ronnie Oon, 72, has benefited from the FOBT screening. As an ex-coach for the national badminton team in the late 1970s and an avid player of the sport, he has always considered himself healthy, fit and active for his age. Oon had picked up an FOBT kit from one of the Guardian outlets during last year’s CCAM, and positive results led to a colonoscopy, which confirmed that he had Stage 4 colorectal cancer. Part of his colon was removed. He has had six courses of chemotherapy and is now on follow-up. Currently, his life is back to normal after the surgery and treatment.
“I was shocked when I received the news as I have always watched my diet, and I exercise regularly and sleep well. I also do not have any family history of colorectal cancer,” said Oon. “I am thankful that the cancer was detected through the FOBT. I cannot imagine what would have happened if it was allowed to spread further. I feel that Singapore Cancer Society has saved my life.”
Saving a life
The free FOBT kits are available at 56 selected Guardian Health & Beauty outlets island-wide in March and April. Dedicated booths will be set up outside seven Guardian stores with high shoppers’ traffic to further advocate this cause. The public can look out for pharmacists wearing button badges bearing the slogan “1 Minute Test Saves Life” to find out more information about the FOBT kit.
The FOBT kits will be available at all polyclinics island-wide from 14 to 18 March. The SCS satellite centre at the National Cancer Centre Singapore, the SCS clinic at Realty Centre and nine Guardian outlets will distribute the kits all year long.
The public can also learn more about colorectal cancer through free public forums and roadshows throughout the months of March and April, and also pick up the FOBT kits on-site. For more details, go to www.singaporecancersociety.org.sg.