Avoiding cancer screening? Read this

No time, no money, and a fear of facing facts - these are some of the most common reasons that keep some people here from getting themselves screened for cancer.

In fact, only a quarter of those over 50 in Singapore are up to date with their colorectal cancer screenings, according to a recent national survey led by the National University Hospital (NUH).

"Some people don't see any symptoms or feel any pain, so they don't see the need for check-ups," said David Fong, chief operating officer of Singapore Cancer Society (SCS).

"There are also some who don't go for further assessment after their first check-up, even though they've been told to," he added.

"They simply would rather not know."

The financial costs of subsequent cancer treatments remain a major and valid concern for many as well, especially the lower-income, said Mr Fong.

The treatment required for breast cancer, for instance, can go up to 17 cycles, with each costing about $3,000 to $4,000.

But needy cancer patients can receive financial help from the SCS' Cancer Treatment Fund, which helps defray treatment costs, on top of various government subsidies.

It also offers free screening services, including clinical breast examinations for breast cancer, pap smear tests for cervical cancer, and faecal immunochemical tests for colorectal cancer.

Early detection, too, means one can incur lower medical costs, said Mr Fong.

"Checks and screenings are necessary because the sooner you know, the earlier you can take action," he said. "And the probability of survival is also higher."

When it comes to getting screened, cancer survivor Julie Seah told My Paper she had learnt, first-hand, that it was not something she could afford to let her guard down on.

The 65-year-old had stopped going for her yearly mammograms when she turned 50, thinking that "cancer wouldn't hit (her) at that age".

But three years later, at 53, she was diagnosed with breast cancer after lumps were discovered in her breasts during a regular health checkup.

"I really shouldn't have taken my health for granted back then," said Madam Seah.

"But I fought on, with a lot of support from my family, especially my husband. Besides, I had three grandchildren waiting for me to go home and cook for them."

Madam Seah now goes for a mammogram every two years, and also volunteers her services at the SCS. She will be among a group of cancer survivors volunteering at the Gift of Hope Carnival at VivoCity on Saturday.

The event, organised by SCS in partnership with AXA Singapore, is aimed at raising public awareness about cancer, encouraging screening and early detection, and raising funds for SCS' beneficiaries.

Rather than skirt the touchy issues surrounding cancer, Shawn Lim, a financial services manager with AXA Life Singapore, said that people should "make sure they are prepared financially".

He said: "A lot of people will find that early detection really helps to lower medical costs, on top of improving their chances of recovery."


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