Vol. 5 Num 994 Sun. March 18, 2007  
Star Health

New cancer-fighting techniques with less risk

Being diagnosed with cancer is really frightening. There is the fear that the cancer treatment would not be successful and it may return. Fear of pain and other side effects also exist.

All these feelings are very natural as the existing cancer treatment options are not up to the mark almost everywhere. With the advancement of technologies and aid of new methods, cancer treatment takes step forward in Singapore among other Asian countries.

They are providing integrated, innovative and comprehensive cancer care with their well equipped hospitals. Treatment with fewer side effects and higher cure rates make Singapore a leading cancer care provider.

According to WHO, in 2006 cancer alone killed more people worldwide than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Scientists and doctors are constantly coming up with new ways to combat this deadly disease.

One of the front line treatments for cancer is radiation. But there are some drawbacks of conventional radiotherapy. If the radiation is not focused precisely on the cancer cells, healthy tissue are also affected.

Women with breast cancer often experience burns and scarring around the areas treated with radiation. Men with prostate cancer may face incontinence and impotence, if tissues around tumors are damaged.

Researchers have come up with new ways to reduce side effects by using a lower dose of radiation with conventional therapy called TomoTherapy. TomoTherapy is a new, revolutionary method for treating cancer that allows for minimal damage to healthy cells with a very little adverse effects. With the TomoTherapy System, doctors and therapists can check the location of the patient's tumour before each treatment, using the computed tomography images taken with the machine, before delivering painless and precise radiation based on a carefully customised plan. Then doctor decides how much radiation the tumour should receive, as well as acceptable levels for surrounding structures and calculates the appropriate pattern, position, and intensity of the radiation beam to be delivered. The System combines treatment planning, patient positioning, and treatment delivery into one system.

Oncology Centre of Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore has the technology and provides TomoTherapy as latest option to treat tumours with radiation, in addition to conventional 3-D conformal therapy and IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy) and also by combining PET and CT Scan.

Parkway Cancer Centres at Gleneagles and Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore have every facility to meet all the needs of cancer patients with a highly skilled, multidisciplinary team comprising of doctors, nurses, counsellors and other medical professionals under one roof.

KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) has the state of art treatment options for women and children cancer. First and only of its kind medical department in Singapore, the KK one stop Breast Centre has the setup that provides women to have their digital mammography, breast ultra-sonography, surgical consultation, minimally invasive biopsies and other procedures - all under one roof.

Patients can get a digital mammogram done in one day, and consult a breast surgeon, if required, on the same day. KK Breast Imaging unit is the first in the world to use the first FDA approved Computed Radiography (CR) technology for mammography, combined with Computer-Aided Detection (CAD).

With digital mammography, more cancers can be detected earlier. It is also significantly more accurate in detecting cancer in women with dense or extremely dense breasts and pre-menopausal and peri-menopausal women.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) along with MRI-guided wire localisation, minimally invasive breast biopsy and sentinel lymph node biopsy for breast cancer avoid complications of arm stiffness, numbness and swelling of conventional routine lymph node dissection and allow smaller scar, quicker recovery.

Research in The Cancer Institution (TCI) of Singapore involves the identification of molecular markers in addition to above mentioned techniques to be used for diagnosis and the development of new treatment strategies. Currently, TCI's services are available at National University Hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Alexandra Hospital and National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.

National Healthcare Group (NHG) hospitals have multidisciplinary cancer care center and it is first healthcare group who achieved Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation for all of its four hospitals. It is mentionable that JCI accreditation is considered as the gold standard of world-class healthcare facilities.

Most hospitals in Singapore have achieved JCI accreditation. Singapore has a plan to make all their hospitals JCI accredited within few years and to make world-standard cancer treatment available in all hospitals.