Early detection can save a life

by | March 1, 2013

The Singapore Cancer Society is organising the 12th Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month this March and it encourages those 50 years and above to take advantage of the free FOBT kits.


Colorectal cancer survivors at the 12th colorectal cancer awareness month press conference from left to right: Robert Hoo, Liew Bao Yi and Teo Kee Huat.

Seventy-one-year-old Robert Hoo did his first FOBT (Faecal Occult Blood Test) screening in 2008 as part of the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) colorectal cancer screening campaign, where the test kits are free for those 50 years and above. He then decided to do the test again a year later through the SCS campaign, and it was then that he tested positive as traces of blood were found in his stool.

SCS contacted Hoo and helped to book a colonoscopy for him at a local hospital. Results showed that there were malignant polyps on the ascending column of his colon and Hoo was diagnosed with Stage 1 colorectal cancer. The doctor removed part of his colon and the surrounding 10 percent of lymph nodes to prevent the cancer from spreading.

Today, Hoo is grateful to the SCS campaign and his awareness of colorectal cancer. “I’m very thankful to SCS. I never knew about the FOBT kit until I visited a Guardian outlet. At the end of the screening process, I found that I had colorectal cancer Stage 1. I was very lucky to discover it early – if I did not pick up the FOBT kit, the cancer would not have been detected. The FOBT kit saved my life. This screening has benefitted me and serves as a reminder to keep myself healthy and be mindful of my lifestyle choices.”


This year’s campaign

For this year, SCS is organising the 12th Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month this March in partnership with the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS), Health Promotion Board (HPB) and the Singapore General Hospital (SGH). SCS aims to reduce premature death from colorectal cancer through early detection via FOBT kits. 

From 2007 to 2011, colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in men and second most common cancer in women in Singapore, with breast cancer being the most common cancer affecting women. During the same period, a total of 8,459 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed, and the incidence rate among the Chinese was the highest in both genders.

At the 12th colorectal cancer awareness month press conference from left to right: Dr Cheong Wai Kit of the National University Hospital and the National University Cancer Institute; Dr Tham Chee Kian of the National Cancer Centre Singapore; Associate Prof Tang Choong Leong of the Singapore General Hospital and chairman of the Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month 2013; Christine Fock of Health Promotion Board; and Albert Ching of SCS.

Regardless of gender, the median age at diagnosis of colorectal cancer was 67 years. The median age at diagnosis for men and women were 66 years and 68 years respectively. The age-specific incidence rates start to increase from age 50 years. The incidence rates of colorectal cancer cases were highest in Stages II and III for all age groups.

A declining trend of deaths from colorectal cancer was seen in both genders from 1992 to 1996, and it is likely attributed to detection of the cancer at an earlier stage by screening and advances in treatment.

Said Associate Professor Tang Choong Leong, head and senior consultant, Department of Colorectal Surgery, SGH: “It is important that people be screened as early colorectal cancer may not have obvious signs or symptoms. (Some sufferers of colorectal cancer may experience minor bleeding from the affected part of the colon/rectum.) Most cases of colorectal cancer can be easily treated and is often curable when detected early. Many people avoid colorectal cancer screening due to fear or anxiety. Screening tests offer the best chance of early detection of colorectal cancer, which is why we strongly urge people to go for screening.”

The SCS colorectal cancer screening campaign this year.

According to SCS, there have been an increase number of FOBT screening participants each year – from 12,162 in 2006 to 24,634 participants in 2012. Of those who participated in the FOBT screening last year, a total of 1,071 were found to have blood in the stools and were referred to the hospitals for colonoscopy and further tests. Thirty-seven participants were found to have polyps, and seven were found to have colorectal cancer.

Even with these numbers, SCS feels they are only reaching out to a small fraction of the 1.17 million Singapore residents who are above the age of 50 years and above. Said Albert Ching, CEO of SCS: “We strongly encourage everyone 50 years of age and above to take advantage of this free screening test offered by SCS. The FOBT test kits have played a role in saving hundreds of lives and could potentially save yours or your loved ones.”


Free FOBT kits

For the months of March and April, SCS has made it even easier for those who are eligible to collect the FOBT kits from various locations such as SCS, Guardian Health and Beauty retail stores, clinics, hospitals and roadshows. For the list of locations, go to SCS website at www.singaporecancersociety.org.sg.

During the 12th Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, there will also be a bilingual forum organised by NCCS on the influence of diet on the risk of colorectal cancer on March 16 and a free public forum on colorectal cancer in English and Mandarin organised by SCS on March 9. Details are on the SCS website listed above.



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