Why Early Detection Of Gastric Cancer Can Save Your Life

Gastric cancer may be the seventh most common cancer in Singapore [1], but most patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage. This may mean that the tumour has already spread to the surrounding lymph nodes. In this case, surgery can still remove the tumour and the affected lymph nodes, but because of the advanced stage, the patient will require chemotherapy after surgery. Sometimes the cancer may be so advanced that it has already spread to other organs in the body like, for example, the liver or the peritoneal cavity. In such cases, surgery can no longer remove all the cancer cells in the body and chemotherapy is used to control the cancer and its symptoms.[2]

woman suffering from abdominal discomfort

In either situation, prognosis is poor when gastric cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage [3]. That is why although it is the seventh most common cancer, gastric cancer is the fourth cause of cancer death in Singapore.

Early detection can save your life

The only way to improve this situation is for gastric cancer to be detected at an early stage. However, early-stage gastric cancer can have very few symptoms. These symptoms may be subtle and easily confused with common day to day gastrointestinal disorders [4].

Symptoms such as

  • upper abdominal discomfort
  • bloating
  • pain

that does not seem to improve with a short course of medication by the family physician should warrant further investigation including endoscopy of the stomach. Endoscopy is a simple procedure which can be performed under sedation without any discomfort.

 

When gastric cancer is detected at an early stage, treatment is less invasive and is more effective. The cancer can be removed using endoscopy without the need to remove the stomach. In situations when the cancer is detected early but is not suitable for endoscopic removal, minimally invasive surgery techniques can now be performed to remove part of the stomach with the cancer. The smaller wounds result in less wound pain after surgery with faster recovery. [5]

Gastric Cancer Awareness Month 2019

Do sign up for the Gastric Cancer Forum by the Singapore Cancer Society where you can learn more about gastric cancer and available screening and treatment options in Singapore. The event is held in 2 sessions at the Toa Payoh Hub Auditorium on 14 September 2019. For more details, please visit SCS's website.

Don't let the fourth deadliest cancer in Singapore eat you alive.

This article is provided to you by the Singapore Cancer Society together with Adjunct Associate Professor Andrew Wong, Chief & Senior Consultant of the Department of Surgery at Changi General Hospital and Professor Jimmy So, Head of Division of Surgical Oncology at the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) & Senior Consultant at National University Hospital.


The Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) is a community-based voluntary welfare organisation dedicated to minimising the impact of cancer through public education, screening, patient services, financial assistance, research and advocacy.

As a self-funded charity, SCS is dependent on public donations to provide quality services to cancer patients, their families and the community at large. SCS was established in 1964, registered as a Society in 1984 and was accorded IPC (Institution of a Public Character) status as a charity in 1995 by the Ministry of Health.

Read more from the Singapore Cancer Society in their Q&A here.

References:

1. Singapore Cancer Registry Annual Registry Report 2015 National Registry of Diseases Office (NRDO). https://www.nrdo.gov.sg/docs/librariesprovider3/Publications-Cancer/cancer-registry-annual-report-2015_web.pdf?sfvrsn=1dd97be4_10. ‌

2. Hall J. Cytoreductive surgery with intraperitoneal hyperthermic chemotherapy for advanced gastric cancer. Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery. 2004;8(4):454-463. doi:10.1016/j.gassur.2003.12.014 ‌

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