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Cancer prevention ropes in the young

Younger family members can nudge elders to screen for colorectal cancer

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KASH CHEONG on 01 Mar 2014

Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

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THE symptoms were there as far back as 15 years ago, when Ms Sarah Anne Boyd visited her father and found blood stains on his underwear.


She suspected that he had colorectal problems, but did not dare broach the subject with him.


“Talking about anything associated with the toilet was frowned upon. It would have been embarrassing,” said Ms Boyd, 37.


But an early screening could have saved her father, who died last year at the age of 80, the pain of chemotherapy and carrying an ostomy pouch attached to his stomach to help him clear his waste.


“It still sits on my conscience,” said Ms Boyd, chief operations officer of Guardian Health and Beauty.


This year, the Colorectal Cancer Awareness Campaign (CCAC) is reaching out to people like Ms Boyd.


“People think that ‘it can’t be me’. But colorectal cancer is the No. 1 cancer in Singapore,” said Dr Cheong Wai Kit, the CCAC chairman and an oncology surgeon at the National University Cancer Institute (NCIS).


Speaking at the campaign’s launch on Thursday, he highlighted the fact that the risk of colorectal cancer increases significantly for those above 50. “This is where younger loved ones come in, giving (their elders) a nudge.”


Figures from the Singapore Cancer Registry show that about 1,700 new cases were diagnosed annually from 2008 to 2012. Those with a family history of the disease or patients with inflammatory bowel diseases are at higher risk.


A high-fat, low-fibre diet, obesity, excessive alcohol intake and smoking are also associated with the cancer.


As part of this year’s campaign, the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) will distribute free colorectal screening kits at SingHealth and National Healthcare Group polyclinics over the next month. The kits can help detect the disease early.


“The test may show blood in the stools – an indication of polyps, which can be removed before they become cancerous,” Dr Cheong said.


The free kits will also be available at 73 Guardian outlets and SCS offices in Bishan and Realty Centre over the next two months.


In addition, the NCIS and National University Hospital are working with several companies including Guardian, SMRT, Shell and ST Engineering to take colorectal cancer awareness to the workplace.


They will also work with Fuhua and Bukit Timah primary schools to urge pupils to spread the cancer-screening message to their parents and grandparents.


Grassroots volunteers from the Moulmein-Kallang GRC have also been roped in to distribute kits to about 3,000 residents aged 50 to 69, and hold void-deck talks.


The campaign hopes to reach 50,000 through this multi- pronged approach.


“Fighting this disease takes a whole-of-society approach,” said Dr Cheong. “Remember to screen and screen early,” he added.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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