Forum: Focus efforts on preventing cancer, and not just making treatment more affordable

More cancer patients will be supported by the recent changes in MediShield Life coverage for their outpatient cancer treatments (MediShield Life coverage enhanced for cancer treatment; to cover drug bills of nearly 90% of subsidised patients, Aug 17).

Furthermore, the claim limit for some drugs goes up while the hefty prices of some cancer drugs have been reduced through price negotiation. All these changes will rein in the ballooning costs of cancer care.

While the Government has acted to respond to cost signals, I would also like to see more efforts on the cancer prevention front.

This is because prevention reduces the actual number of cancer cases. Each cancer case prevented immediately saves a life, and there is no treatment cost to talk about, not to mention all the pain and grief avoided.

All the fixes that we see regarding MediShield Life are fundamentally about resource rationing - a financial tool to cap costs and share the pie among the needy.

The World Health Organisation declares that "between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of cancers can currently be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategies".

Some cancers are closely driven by the same usual suspects that remain prevalent in our society.

A case in point: Smoking accounts for more than 90 per cent of all lung cancer deaths.

The other obvious factor that is not given enough publicity is the relationship between obesity and cancer.

According to Cancer Research UK, obesity is linked to 13 cancers. Keeping a healthy weight helps reduce the risks of cancers such as breast and colon cancers, which are ranked among the top cancers in Singapore.

It is expedient to deal with numbers and fix claims criteria in MediShield Life.

But when it comes to implementing prevention strategies that could reduce the incidence of cancer in Singapore, are we doing enough?

Lim Teck Koon

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