Global Health Asia-Pacific March 2022 March 2022 - Page 60


Colorectal cancer can be beaten

Early screening can save many patients with the common malignancy , while advanced treatments are readily available
Dr Foo Kian Fong Senior Consultant in Medical Oncology at PCC
Dr Chew Min Hoe General and Colorectal Surgeon at The Surgeons

There ’ s a lot we can now do to prevent and cure colorectal cancer , beginning with healthy lifestyles and regular screening . And for those with the disease , an array of therapies developed over the years continues to provide patients with better chances of survival .

That ’ s the takeaway message from a recent webinar organised by the Parkway Cancer Centre ( PCC ) in Singapore , where a range of experts offered up the latest treatment advances for one of the world ’ s most widespread and deadly malignancies .
Colorectal cancer , often referred to as bowel or colon cancer , is the most common cancer among Singaporean men , said Dr Foo Kian Fong , Senior Consultant in Medical Oncology at PCC . But Singapore is not alone . The International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that in 2020 there were roughly two million new cases and almost one million deaths from the disease worldwide .
Though the condition has long been a top killer in Singapore , many deaths could be avoided and survival rates much higher given the preventative tools at our disposal , stressed Dr Chew Min Hoe , General and Colorectal Surgeon at The Surgeons . Just about 60 percent of Singaporean patients survive for five years after diagnosis , a good indicator the disease has been cured in those patients . The main culprit for not achieving higher rates is late diagnosis as many people present with advanced cancers .
Therefore , early screening is key to improving survival since colorectal cancers are often asymptomatic in the initial stages .
The main screening options include an annual faecal immunochemical test ( FIT ) and a colonoscopy every five to 10 years . People at average risk should start them when turning 50 , while those at greater risk , like firstdegree relatives of colorectal cancer patients , should get screened much sooner and more regularly . Those experiencing recurring symptoms , like changes in bowel habits ( including constipation and diarrhoea ), bloating , stomach pain , especially at night , paleness , a lump in the tummy , unexplained fatigue , and weight loss , should also undergo early screening .
FIT is an inexpensive and non-invasive approach to detecting hidden blood in the stool , a potential sign of colorectal cancer , and is done by collecting a sample to test with an at-home kit . Positive results , however , don ’ t necessarily indicate cancer since blood in the stool can
58 MARCH 2022 GlobalHealthAndTravel . com