Consider for a second the possibility that cancer is already inside your body. Cellular damage takes place every day; if the mechanism that controls and repairs cell mutations breaks down, healthy cells become cancer. Factors such as exposure to chemicals, radiation, lifestyle, diet, or genetic predisposition can contribute to the snapping of the very fine thread that connects us to our health.
Numbers have shown that cancer cases have increased by 17 per cent since 2010. Around 40 per cent of Singaporean men and women are likely to develop cancer in their lifetime. And the most sobering of all: One in three Singaporeans die of cancer.
But these depressing facts tend to overshadow the positive ones. With modern technological advancements, many cases of cancer can be prevented, cured or controlled for long periods of time, says oncologist Dr Lim Hwee Yong. Early diagnosis at Stage 1 can also lead to a 90-93 per cent cure rate in breast and colon cancers, the two most common types. A cure does not just mean having beaten cancer into remission; in this case, it means being confident that it will not reoccur.
Thanks to extensive research and development, hundreds of cancer treatment drugs exist, many with significantly reduced side effects. Scientists gain new insights into the disease every day, and previously unthinkable treatments are now available, such as medicines that modify the blood vessels from supplying blood to tumours, or immunotherapy, which harnesses T-cells from the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.
Cancer can be beaten and going for regular screenings is the first step. Upon diagnosis, it is crucial to not waste time living in denial or avoiding proper treatments, because every month that goes by without treatment lowers the cure rate. Even if the cancer is incurable, the right medication and attitude can ensure a high quality of life for a great number of years.
Scientific progress has made it possible to beat the odds, but each individual also has to do his part. A cancer diagnosis is not a life sentence; it is entirely possible to avoid being part of a scary statistic.