It is important for people to go for regular cancer screenings, especially those at higher risk of contracting the disease ("Shock of cancer diagnosis despite regular checks"; Sept 7).
While regular check-ups help to detect cancer early, it is not unusual to develop cancer in between screenings. Madam Serene Chua's case illustrates this well.
As her mother had gastric cancer, Madam Chua has a high risk of developing gastric cancer too. For this reason, since 2004, she has been having regular check-ups at the National University Hospital (NUH).
In March 2010, Madam Chua had one of her regular endoscopy sessions at NUH, and the result was normal.
Before she could go for her next endoscopy, scheduled in March 2012, she suffered severe pain in the stomach in late 2011 and was sent to the hospital. She was diagnosed to have stage II gastric cancer and received treatment at NUH. She is now free of tumour.
Thanks to early detection, Madam Chua's cancer had not involved her lymph nodes, which could have caused a further spread of the disease.
Gastric cancer is ranked fourth for causing the most deaths among male cancer patients and fifth for female cancer patients in Singapore.
More than two-thirds of gastric cancer patients are diagnosed at stage III or stage IV.
It can affect anyone at any age. However, it is more commonly found in persons aged between 50 and 70. Those with a family history of gastric cancer are at a higher risk of developing the condition.
Gastric cancer is curable if detected at an early stage. Many treatment options are now available for gastric cancer and cure is possible for many patients.
We strongly advise those at higher risk to have endoscopy sessions every one to two years to enable earlier detection and treatment of the cancer.
Jimmy So (Associate Professor )
Head, Surgical Oncology
National University Cancer Institute, Singapore