Don't make light of patients' cancer claims

In an age where patients often consult the Internet before visiting a physician, patients are usually well aware of the symptoms associated with colorectal cancer (Breast, prostate cancers rising sharply in S'pore; June 21).

General practitioners are often the first ones the public reaches out to for help when the symptoms of colorectal cancer present themselves.

While it is important to educate patients that it is possible to have colorectal cancer at a young age, GPs also need to be able to recognise the signs and not make light of patients' complaints.

I know of a colorectal cancer patient who was diagnosed at the age of 23, when she turned up at the hospital's emergency department. She was already in the advanced stages of cancer.

She was aware of the symptoms of colorectal cancer and had raised the possibility with the doctors she saw, but was told repeatedly that she was too young to have it.

The first doctor's diagnosis of her incessant vomiting was gastric flu, while the second thought it was irritable bowel syndrome. Both dismissed her suspicions of cancer.

Educational and advocacy efforts around the possibility of colorectal cancer at a young age should be undertaken. Both doctors and young adults need to be made aware of this.

Kimberley Lim (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Don't make light of patients' cancer claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe