SINGAPORE: The number of colorectal cancer cases in Singapore has gone up slightly over the past five years.
Latest figures from the National Registry of Diseases show that in the period of 2007—2011, a total of 8,459 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed. This is compared to 8,178 cases diagnosed in the period of 2006—2010.
Colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in men. The incidence rate among the Chinese was the highest in both men and women while the median age at diagnosis of colorectal cancer was 67 years old.
Despite an increase in the number of Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) screening participants each year, the Singapore Cancer Society said not enough of those who are aged 50 and above are getting screened.
Associate Professor Tang Choong Leong, head and senior consultant at Department of Colorectal Surgery at Singapore General Hospital, said: "The most common reason is the ’If it ain’t wrong, you don’t fix it’ mentality. That is one of the reasons why people don’t make themselves available. On the other hand, it is the lifestyle. We are very busy rushing here and there every day and making time for tests may be a problem."
In 2012, the Singapore Cancer Society said there were 24,634 people who were screened using the FOBT kit, compared with 12,161 in 2006.
Last year, 60,000 FOBT kits were distributed. The Singapore Cancer Society said it saw a return rate of 74 per cent which they say is quite high when compared to the rest of the world.
To reach out to more people, the organisation will be distributing 65,000 of these kits, which can be picked up at retail stores, hospitals and clinics.
Free FOBT kits will be distributed at 71 Guardian Pharmacy stores, as well as polyclinics and the Singapore Cancer Society.
Seventy—one—year—old Robert Hoo, tested positive for colorectal cancer in 2009 after using a FOBT kit.
"I couldn’t believe I have colorectal cancer. All my life, I have been a very active person. I have been very careful with my food. I also take vitamin. I exercise a lot. My bowel is very, very accurate so I was very disappointed," said Mr Hoo.
Part of his colon was removed to prevent the cancer from spreading and doctors consider him lucky as he was diagnosed early.
Colorectal cancer does not have any outward symptoms in its early stages but sufferers may experience minor bleeding from the affected part of the colon.
They said the majority of the cases diagnosed in the past five years are in the late stages of cancer where additional treatment to surgery, such as chemotherapy, is considered.
There will also be a more consolidated effort by various health agencies and hospitals to reach out to the public to raise awareness about this disease.
Assoc Prof Tang said: "Over the years, I believe there is some increase in awareness but still we are not reaching out to a large number of people in the age bracket that is eligible for screening. In fact in the last national survey on health, only roughly about 10 per cent of people are aware and the number of people who are practising screening are much less than that figure so the knowledge is there but not adequate and the practice is even worse."
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