Tummy Trouble: Her World November 2011.
Dr Melvin Look on Stomach Cancer in Singapore
ABOUT 1,000 WOMEN IN SINGAPORE ARE DIAGNOSED WITH STOMACH CANCER EACH YEAR. FORTUNATELY, EARLY SCREENING CAN HELP NIP THE DISEASE IN THE BUD.
Salty processed foods may be some of your favourite indulgences. But did you know that not only does their high sodium content increase your risk of high blood pressure, excess consumption of these foods can also increase your risk of stomach cancer?
Stomach cancer is the ninth most common cancer in women, and about 1,000 women in Singapore are diagnosed with the disease each year. According to Dr. Melvin Look, general surgeon at Parkway East Hospital, this cancer is more common in Asians than Caucasians because our stomachs have a higher prevalence of chronic infection by Helicobacter pylori, a cancer-causing bacterium. lf you’re Chinese particular, Hokkien or Teochew-your risk of developing stomach cancer is higher than if you’re Malay or Indian.
You are also considered high-risk if you have a close relative who’s had stomach cancer, are above 40 years old, smoke, and/or eat a lot of smoked, salted or pickled foods
EARLY SCREENING MAY SAVE YOUR LIFE
Stomach cancer may show up as persistent gastric or abdominal pain, vomiting, weight loss and the passing of black stools. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms, it’s advisable to see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
Unlike breast cancer, population screening for stomach cancer is not routinely advised for everyone. But if you have a close relative with stomach cancer, it’s important for you to undergo a screening gastroscopy, even if you have no symptoms. Gastroscopy is neither painful nor uncomfortable. During this simple 10-minute procedure, a thin, flexible telescope is inserted into you mouth and stomach, so the doctor can make an inner observation. No preparation is required other than to fast for six hours
If Helicobacter pylori is present your stomach, your doctor will prescribe a week-long course of antibiotics to eradicate it. This will reduce your long term risk of developing stomach cancer.
Dr. Look recommends you have the screening from age 40, or 10 years before the age at which your relative was diagnosed with stomach cancer. However, if you’re still relatively young, you may not need a gastroscopy. Instead, you can undergo a non-invasive urea breath test to check the bacterium is present in your stomach.
If your diagnosis is positive for stomach cancer and the disease is still in the early stages, the affected tissue can be removed by endoscopy without the need for surgery with near 100 per cent cure rates. Lf the cancer is advanced, surgery may be required, followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back again.
The chances of surviving stomach cancer depend greatly on its stage of growth – that’s why early screening is important. The sooner it is detected, the higher your chances of survival.