In Singapore, about 35 people are diagnosed with cancer every day. One in every four to five persons may develop cancer in their lifetime and this disease remains the nation’s leading cause of death, accounting for around 30% of deaths in our population.
That said, cancer survival in Singapore has markedly improved over the past five decades. The 5-year survival rate of colon cancer patients has risen from 13-28% 40 years ago to about 51-60% presently.
Among the various types of cancer, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and the rectum) ranks consistently as the most common cancer in Singapore over the past few decades: it is the leading cancer in men, and second most common among women. In fact, 6 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every day and the incidence of colorectal cancer in Singapore is among the highest in the world.
Whilst the statistics may sound less than encouraging, the good news is that early detection by way of cancer screening, along with improvements in treatment, has reduced the mortality rate of colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer screening not only reduces the risk of advanced cancer in patients substantially, it is also cost effective. There are two main modalities used in colorectal cancer screening: stool based tests and endoscopy. Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) are encouraged to go for regular health screenings and the necessary follow-up as part of Screen for Life (SFL), a national screening programme that provides subsidised screening at nominal or no cost for selected groups of patients. Screening allows for early detection of conditions and with timely treatment, it will prove to be more effective.
These are the risk factors for colorectal cancer
- Ages 50-years-old and above
- Family history of colorectal cancers
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Hereditary conditions such as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).
Review the list and if you are at risk of colorectal cancer, discuss your options for screening with your family physician. Early detection saves lives, and in many cases, prevent colorectal cancer by the removal of pre-cancerous polyps detected on colonoscopy.
1. Singapore Cancer Registry 50th Anniversary Monograph 1968 -2017
2. E. Altobelli, L. Rapacchietta, C. Marziliano, G. Campagna, V. Profeta and R. Fagnano, “Differences in colorectal cancer surveillance epidemiology and screening in the WHO European Region,” Oncol Lett, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 2531-2542, 2019.
3. PWW Chan, JH Ngu, Z Poh and R Soetikno. Colorectal cancer screening. Singapore Medical Journal 2017; 58(1): 24-28