Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death globally. Many lives have been succumbed to cancer, from children to elderlies. In 2018, 9.5 million people died from diseases to cancer globally. The numbers are expected to increase by 2040, with a projection of 16.4 million deaths due to cancer worldwide.
People can prevent this number from increasing by pumping up cancer awareness, leaning towards the early prevention of cancer, and the availability and affordability of cancer treatments like brachytherapy in Singapore.
To fully understand this curable disease, let us learn the basics of cancer.
A Brief Introduction To Cancer
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a disease that starts with the uncontrollable growth of old and abnormal cells in the body. Usually, these abnormal and damaged cells die naturally, but with cancer, these cells multiply instead, crowding the normal and healthy cells and invading parts of the body. Cancer can start from any part of the body. These abnormal cell growth can lead to the formation of solid tumours (malignant). However, there are cancers that do not form solid tumours, like cancer of the blood or leukaemia.
How Is Cancer Developed?
Generally, cancer is a genetic disease caused by genetic changes. Some external factors can affect genetic changes as well.
Cancer is a genetic disease in the sense that it is inherited. According to the National Cancer Institute, five to ten per cent of all cancers are related to inherited gene mutation. Meaning people who have relatives with cancer are more likely to get one.
However, there are external factors that affect gene mutations. Harmful substances from tobacco can alter and damage the DNA.
Fortunately, cancer is a treatable disease. The technological advancement in the medical field has opened many treatments for cancer, including brachytherapy in Singapore. Accessibility and affordability to cancer treatment and qualified radiation doctor in Singapore increases cancer survival.
5 Most Common Cancers Worldwide
According to the World Health Organization, lung cancer, colon and rectum cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, and breast cancer are the deadliest cancers globally.
On the other hand, prostate cancer joins the list as one of the most prevalent cancers for all sexes in Singapore in 2020.
There are two types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC).
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) originates from the cells in the lung tissues. There are several subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Smokers are at risk of developing NSCLC; however, people exposed to harmful substances such as secondhand smoke, asbestos, arsenic, and such are more likely to develop this type of lung cancer.
On the other hand, small cell lung cancer (SCLC) starts at the bronchi and spreads to the other parts of the body. SCLC develops faster than NSCLC. Like NSCLC, cigarette and tobacco smoking and exposure to harmful substances increases the risk of lung cancer.
In 2020, there are 2,916 new cases of lung cancer in Singapore, according to the World Health Organization. Like other cancers, the early stages of lung cancer are treatable. Hospitals and clinics provide procedures and a qualified radiation doctor in Singaporeto conduct lung cancer treatments.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Persistent cough, blood or rust-coloured phlegm, chest pain and shortness of breath, frequent respiratory infection cases like bronchitis and pneumonia, and unexplained weight loss are among the symptoms of lung cancer.
Lung cancer shows other symptoms as it spreads throughout the body. The symptoms include bone pain, swollen lymph nodes, yellowing of the skin and eyes, and persistent headache and dizziness.
If you suspect lung cancer, visit a hospital and clinic at Mount Elizabeth and ask a radiation doctorfor a lung cancer test.
Tests and Screening
The screening and imaging tests include chest x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, CT-guided needle biopsy. Tests include sputum cytology, thoracentesis, and bronchoscopy.
Colon and Rectum (Colorectal) Cancer
Colorectal cancer can also be referred to as colon cancer or rectum cancer, depending on which area cancer originates.
The colon or the large bowel is divided into four sections, namely ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, and sigmoid colon.
The primary function of the colon is to absorb the remaining salt and water from the food. The food goes to the rectum as a waste.
Colorectal cancer starts from the polyp growth along the inner lining of the colon and rectum. Not all polyps are cancerous; however, some polyps can turn into cancer.
The prime cause of colorectal cancer is gene mutation. People who have relatives with colorectal cancer are most likely to develop one. Like cervical treatment in Singapore, procedures for colorectal cancer are available in the country.
According to the World Health Organization, there are 3,558 new cases of colorectal cancer in Singapore in 2020.
Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer does not show physical symptoms immediately; however, it is better to be aware of these signs: rectal bleeding, dark brown or black stool, and abdominal cramps.
People may also feel unrelieved despite having a bowel movement recently. People may also experience diarrhoea and constipation or narrowing of waste or stool. Unexplainable weight loss can also be a sign of colorectal cancer.
If you suspect colorectal cancer, consult a radiation doctor in Singapore for colorectal cancer tests and screening.
Tests and Screening
Two types of tests can be done to confirm colorectal cancers.
The first type is the stool-based test. This type of test is less invasive as it inspects the stool to find evidence of cancer. Faecal immunochemical test (FIT), guaiac-based faecal occult blood test, and Stool DNA test are examples of stool-based tests. Most of these tests are inexpensive.
The second type is the visual (structural) exam. This type of exam can be minimally invasive as it requires checking the insides of the colon and rectum. Colonoscopy, CT colonography, and flexible sigmoidoscopy are examples of colorectal cancer visual exams.
The liver is one of the most vital organs in the body. A person cannot live without a liver. That is why liver cancer, or the abnormal growth of cancer cells in the liver area, can be deadly if undetected.
There are two types of liver cancer: primary liver cancer and secondary liver cancer. These types have subtypes as well.
Primary liver cancer is a cancer that originates from the liver. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer), Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma, and hepatoblastoma are the subtypes of primary liver cancer.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the malignant tumour growth in the liver. The tumours can be a single large tumour or multiple small tumours in the liver.
Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma is a cancer that starts at the bile duct. Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma are cancers that originate from the cells lining the blood vessels found in the liver. Meanwhile, hepatoblastoma is a type of liver cancer that occurs in children.
Secondary (metastatic) liver cancer is cancer where that does not originate from the liver. It is a cancer that only spreads in the liver, thus affecting the organ.
The risk factors of liver cancer include gender, ethnicity, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, obesity, and underlying diseases such as type 2 diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and chronic viral hepatitis, according to the American Cancer Society.
Like cervical cancer treatment in Singapore, there are procedures available in the country that can treat the early stages of liver cancer.
Symptoms of Liver Cancer
The symptoms of liver cancer are highly similar to other health issues and conditions; however, it is always better to visit a hospital or clinic at Mount Elizabethconsult a specialist or radiation doctorfor a proper and accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms include unexplainable weight loss, enlarged liver, enlarged spleen, pain in the abdomen near or below the right shoulder blade, itching, abnormal bruising and bleeding, and yellowing of the eyes and skin.
People with chronic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis should be more vigilant of these symptoms.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, consult a specialist or radiation doctor in Singapore immediately.
Tests and Screening
The imaging tests for liver cancer include X-ray, CT scan, MRI scan, angiography, and bone scan.
Other cancer screening tests include needle biopsy, laparoscopic biopsy, and surgical biopsy.
There are laboratory tests, such as the alpha-fetoprotein blood (AFP) test, liver function tests, and kidney function tests.
Among the top five cancers that caused deaths in 2020, according to the World Health Organization, stomach cancer is probably one of the slowest to develop.
The stomach is the organ responsible for digesting the food we eat. Although the stomach, colon, and rectum belong to the digestive system, stomach cancer and colorectal cancer are different from each other and may require distinct treatment methods.
There are several types of stomach cancer. Adenocarcinomas is a type of stomach cancer that starts at the mucosa or the innermost lining of the stomach. Gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) is tumour growth that begins at the interstitial cells of Cajal found in the stomach. Meanwhile, a neuroendocrine tumour is a cancer that affects the neuroendocrine cells located in the stomach.
Lymphomas is basically cancer that affects the immune system cells. It can happen at any part of the body; however, lymphoma occurring in the immune system cells found in the stomach lining can cause stomach cancer.
Although the primary cause of stomach cancer is DNA mutation or changes, underlying stomach conditions can lead to cancer development. These conditions include atrophic gastritis, intestinal metaplasia, and dysplasia.
Treatment for the early stages of stomach cancer is available in the country, similar to cervical cancer treatment in Singapore.
Symptoms of Stomach Cancer
Since the progression of stomach cancer is slow, it rarely shows noticeable symptoms. However, it is better to be more vigilant and aware of these basic signs of cancer.
Symptoms include unexplainable weight loss, abdominal pain, poor appetite, persistent heartburn and indigestion, frequent vomiting with and without blood, blood in stool, and anaemia.
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, visit hospitals and clinics at Mount Elizabeth and ask a specialist or radiation doctor for stomach cancer tests and screening.
Tests and Screening
Stomach cancer tests and screenings include upper endoscopy, endoscopic ultrasound, biopsy, Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series, CT scan, CAT scan, PET scan, MRI, and Laparoscopy.
The uncontrollable growth of cancer cells in the breast is called breast cancer. This uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells usually forms a lump or tumour in the breast.
These tumours can be benign or malignant. Benign tumours are typically not dangerous to one’s health. Benign tumours can be removed through surgery.
On the other hand, malignant or cancerous tumours are more dangerous as they can spread to other parts of the body. Surgeries can remove malignant tumours. There are radiation therapies that can shrink cancerous lumps as well. However, there is a chance for a malignant tumour to grow back after surgery or therapy.
In 2020, there are 3, 662 new cases of breast cancer in Singapore. Similar to cervical cancer treatment in Singapore, there are procedures available that can cure breast cancer in the country.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Cancer cells affect the breast tissues near the lymph nodes next to the underarms. It is why people may feel a lump near the armpits. People with breast cancer may feel swelling on the affected part and pain on any part of the breast. There may be changes in the breasts as well.
Tests and Screening
Experts encourage women to self-examine their breasts as the first step to early detection of breast cancer. Self-examination includes breast feeling using the finger pads. Touch your breast using your fingers flat together. Then knead the breast in a circular motion. You can start at the top of the breast by the collarbone, going near the armpits, then above the abdomen, proceeding to the cleavage. You can repeat the circular motion on the nipple area as well.
If you feel a lump, consult a hospital or clinic at Mount Elizabeth and ask a radiation doctor for a breast cancer test and screening. It includes breast biopsy, breast MRI, breast ultrasound, and mammogram.
Dr Johann Tang provides radiation treatment for cancers, including brachytherapy, in Singapore. Live healthily and be cancer-free. Request an appointment with Dr Johann Tang today.