Health Screening strives to detect disease early in people without symptoms, in hope of a better chance of survival outcome.
A major component of health screening involves cancer screening. Cancer remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Singapore, accounting for 29.7% of deaths in 2015 according to the National Registry of Disease Office of Singapore.
The thought of screening for cancer can be distressing. One may even argue that by identifying cancer, it will be life-changing, life-defining, even death-sentenced without a cure to the problem. On the flipped side, even without curative treatment to the disease, early detection promises a better disease prognosis and a better quality of life with current modern medicine in comparison to cancer cases that are detected at late stages.
In certain cancers, early screening can in fact be life-saving. This is where health screening comes in place. Screening has been shown to be effective in early detection of colon cancer, breast cancers and cervical cancer. This article is written in the hope to give certain guidance and recommendation to people on choosing cancer screening packages.
Should I undergo Cancer Screening?
You should consider if you are
- Increasing in age
- Consuming excessive alcohol
- Positive with infections such as HPV virus, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C
- Have a family history of cancer
- Living or working in an environment that involves chemicals, arsons, and other industrial chemicals
Every reason to screen for colon cancer, breast cancer and cervical cancer!
You are recommended for a colonoscopy for everyone at the age of 50 and every 10 years thereafter. Your doctor may advise you for an earlier colonoscopy procedure if you have symptoms or family risk factors of colon cancer.
Colonoscopy, though not completely risk-free, is not overtly scary. Colonoscopy is a planned procedure arranged between you and your endoscopist. Prior to the procedure, you are advised to drink a medicine liquid 1 to 2 days prior procedure to clear out your bowels. You will be given sedation throughout the procedure to ease your discomfort. The procedure itself takes about 15 to 30 minutes, allowing your doctor to visualize your colon intestinal walls, and take sample biopsies or remove small polyps during the procedure.
You are recommended for a yearly mammogram at the age of 40 until the age of 50, then every 2 years repeating mammogram until the age of 69. Although Ultrasound breasts are not routinely performed, it may be recommended by your doctor if clinically indicated. In high risks individuals, your doctor may recommend you to do MRI breasts.
Many people find mammogram is a painful test. Mammogram though is not the most comfortable test, is useful in identifying cancerous areas of the breasts. Breast cancer is one of the cancers with a good survival rate if detect and managed early.
You are recommended cervical cancer screening from the age of 25 onwards if you have ever had sexual contact. You are recommended for pap smear test at least once every 3 years. You are also advised for HPV test every 5 years if you are sexually active and over the age of 30.
While pap smear and HPV tests can be uncomfortable, early treatment is curative. Early treatment of cervical cancer is particularly important to women during their reproduction years for future conceive and childbearing.
What cancer symptoms or warning signs I should be aware of?
While cancer is most often asymptomatic, you should speak to your doctor if you experience
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained lethargy
- Any abnormal lumps and bumps
- Rash or sores that never heal
- New moles that change size, shape, and bleeds
- Abnormal bleeding- such as nose bleed, bloody sputum, blood in urine or stools
Health screening is not completely without risks. False-positive results can cause anxiety and require further tests that involve further risks and cost. In false negative tests, it may give a person a false sense of security.
Speak to your doctor before deciding any tests for cancer screening- don’t leave cancer to chance.