Health News

Back to work after a long long Lunar New Year break…and everyone seems refreshed in the office (excluding the grump expressions in the MRT)

Spotted this in the news today…As always, prevention is always better than the cure.

Big jump in endometrial cancer among Singapore women
By Monica Kotwani | Posted: 06 February 2011 1910 hrs, Channel News Asia website

SINGAPORE: Endometrial cancer is now the fourth most common cancer among women in Singapore, compared to its eighth spot about 10 years ago.

Doctors say the disease is affecting an increasing number of women over 40 years old.

Wong Lee Pheng, who is in her 50s, discovered she had endometrial cancer in September last year, after experiencing excessive bleeding for a few days.

Ms Wong said: “Shocked. I mean I burst into tears of course, because (I) cannot believe cancer can happen to me.”

She was one of about 60 women who sought treatment for endometrial cancer at the National University Hospital (NUH) last year.

NUH says that of the 60 women, more than 90 percent are over 40 years old and about 80 percent were diagnosed as having stage one endometrial cancer.

Dr Joseph Ng, a consultant at NUH Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, said: “If we look at all the other cancer profiles, we’ll probably find that endometrial cancer is probably one of the fastest growing cancers.”

Endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system.

The cancer arises in the tissue layer that lines the uterine cavity and causes heavy and irregular vaginal bleeding.

At its advanced stage, it spreads to neighbouring organs such as the bowel, bladder and lymph nodes, with painful symptoms.

Dr Ng said that an ageing population and lifestyle factors have contributed to the rise in endometrial cancer statistics.

“Obesity, (women) having fewer pregnancies, and also women starting to have menstrual periods earlier and reaching menopause at a later age. These are all factors that contribute towards increasing a woman’s risk for having endometrial cancer,” he said.

But if caught early, the prognosis is good. And technological advances in the field are coming up with less invasive methods of surgery, such as a robot machine that allows doctors to operate on the cancer without open surgery.

Dr Ng said: “We’ve now miniaturised the surgeon’s hands into small robotic hands…..and these hands are small enough to fit through standard laparoscopic ports, small tubes. So we are able to perform the same degree of surgery, the same complexity of surgery, but without an open wound.”

The robot-assisted surgery means a faster recovery and fewer scars for the patient.

Such surgery also benefits the hospital.

“There is a national crunch in hospital beds. We’re always short of hospital beds. So we’ve found that this is a good way to try and increase our healthcare capability to be able to cope with that demand,” said Dr Ng.

Still, medical advances go hand in hand with early detection as well as equipping oneself with the right kind of information.

“Don’t just count on going for the Pap smear, because it doesn’t tell (if you have endometrial cancer). If the body shows signs of abnormalities, go and see the doctor and get different tests…. When I was first diagnosed, at first it was a Pap smear and it said it was fine. But I happened to go for other tests, then we discovered that it was not so fine,” said Madam Wong.

Dr Ng said primary healthcare providers can play a bigger role in detecting the cancer early.

He said: “GPs, family physicians (can) reinforce very, very simple counselling pointers to their patients whenever they see these women for healthcare checks or even just for problem visits like cough and cold or flu.

“It’s very easy to ask a woman how her menstrual periods are. Are they regular? Because irregular menstrual bleeding in a woman, who has not yet hit menopause, is one of the most important signs and symptoms of early cancer, especially early endometrial cancer.”

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