New cancer clinic at Changi General

SINGAPORE - The National Cancer Centre Singapore has set up a clinic at Changi General Hospital to treat patients suffering from breast or colorectal cancers.

This will save those living in the east the trouble of having to go all the way to Outram for their chemotherapy treatments and consultations but allow them to receive the same high level of specialist care, said the centre's head, Professor Soo Khee Chee.

He expects the clinic to treat about 1,000 patients a year. Today, one in four of the 7,000 people the centre sees a year live in the east.

Prof Soo said about 60 per cent of the patients have breast or gastrointestinal cancers.

Dr Tham Chee Kian, the medical director for the new clinic, said it will be staffed by three oncologists. One will specialise in breast and two in gastrointestinal - which includes colorectal cancer, the most common form of the disease here.

They will be supported by five cancer nurses, two pharmacists and a medical social worker.

Dr Toh Han Chong, the centre's head of medical oncology, said Changi General Hospital has very good cancer surgeons. But in the past, patients had to go to Outram for follow-up treatment.

Now that the centre has been set up, they can do the bulk of this treatment at the hospital, saving them a lot of time and travel.

Before each chemotherapy session - which can last from 15 minutes to six hours, depending on the medicine they need - patients are given a blood test.

It takes about two hours to get the results, which must be seen by a doctor before the actual treatment can start.

Mrs L. F. Chong, 46, who has early stage breast cancer and lives in Tampines, said the hospital is near her home, which means she can go for the blood test a day before her chemotherapy session. This way, she does not have to wait. If she had to go all the way to Outram, it would not make sense to do two trips.

Chemotherapy regimes vary, said Dr Toh. Some might need weekly sessions for three months. Others, like Mrs Chong, require only four sessions, three weeks apart.

Dr J. Raghuram, the hospital's chief of medicine, said that if the numbers grow, it might consider having a ward dedicated to cancer patients.

At the official launch of the clinic by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Friday, hospital chief executive Lee Chien Earn said that before the clinic was set up, its patients needed to make "tiring trips several times a week".

This is why the decision was made to open a satellite clinic at the hospital.

Patients still need to go to Outram for radiation treatment, since this requires special "bunker" rooms not available at Changi.

Mr Gan told The Straits Times: "This is a good example of collaboration between a national centre and a regional hospital to bring good quality health care closer to patients."

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