colonoscopy, cancer screening, screen for life,  breastscreen singapore , colon cancer, cervical cancer

Reduce Your Cancer Risk

Source: The Straits Times, 13 October 2015 © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

​Too many patients find out about their cancer late.

One in four breast cancer patients and up to one in two colon cancer patients discover their disease at stage 3 or 4, said Dr Lim Siew Eng, a senior consultant in the department of hematology-oncology at the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore. For some, earlier detection could have saved their lives, she said.

One way to catch cancer early is to go for screening. But not many do.

Take breast cancer, for example. It is currently the most common cancer among women in Singapore, with more than 9,200 women being diagnosed with the disease between 2010 and 2014.

But only about one in three Singaporean women aged 50 to 69 years old has had a mammogram done in the last two years, said a Health Promotion Board (HPB) spokesman.

For women aged 50 or above, screening mammography is recommended once every two years.

There are similar recommendations for colon and cervical cancer screening. Both men and women should start going for colon cancer screening when they reach 50.

Meanwhile, women aged between 25 and 69 who have had sexual intercourse should go for a Pap smear once every three years.

Women can stop taking the test at 69 if their Pap smear is taken at that age and those in the past have been clear, said Dr Lim.

Related: 4 Key Facts about Cancer in Singapore's Context

These screening tests are available at polyclinics and restructured hospitals under the HPB's Screen for Life programme. This national programme consolidates health screening tests and recommended immunisations across a person's lifespan. One can learn about the immunisations and the screening tests needed according to age group. The information is customised to each person according to their age and gender, said an HPB spokesman.

But people who are at risk of developing a particular type of cancer can start going for screening at an earlier age or undergo such screening tests more frequently. Your doctor is the best person to advise you on the type of screening you need, said the HPB spokesman.

After each screening test, it is important to follow up with the doctor to receive any appropriate management.

To reduce the risk of developing cancer, one should adopt a healthy diet and exercise regularly.

The HPB recommends:

  • Consuming a balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in fat.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight with a body mass index of no more than 23
  • Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake.
  • Going for regular health screening to detect cancer so it can be treated or managed well.

If you experience symptoms such as breast lumps, altered bowel habits or abnormal vaginal bleeding, you should see your doctor, said Dr Lim. The sooner, the better.
Ng Wan Ching

For more details on the Screen for Life programme, go to​.

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