Saturday, September 4, 2010

Learning To Know The Enemy

Let me start this installment with a plea. Speak to your doctor before you try anything as a result of reading about it here!

Far from being an expert, I am learning as I go along. I kid you not that I have probably forgotten more useful information than I have managed to retain!

And the amount of information available is overwhelming - I am sure I have forgotten or not absorbed more I have managed to retain! Sometimes I feel that I am adrift on a vast ocean with no land in sight, casting around for some direction.

That direction comes in unexpected ways - such as an opportunity today to attend part of the 2010 Singapore Cancer Forum.

The purpose of the forum was to update medical professionals (including medical students) and caregivers on the current trends and management of the top 10 cancers of men and women in Singapore.

Welcome news for women is that thanks to screening and prevention cancer of the cervix, once lethal, feel from #2 (1968) to #5 ranking. Sadly colo-rectal cancer which was ranked #5 in 1968 rose to #2, reflecting changes in lifestyle and eating habits.

In Singapore men, lung cancer #1 in 1968 has been overtaken by colo-rectal cancer. Stomach and liver cancer were #2 and #3 in 1968. Prostate cancer is the new #3, but it is one of the better cancers to have, if there's anything good to say about cancer.

We heard and saw a video about laparascopic (key hole) surgery, learnt about molecular biology (very complex) which seems to be taking us towards 'personalized' cancer treatment and the remarkable advances in radiation therapy which enables the doctors to spare surrounding areas.

We also learnt about vaccines which have made some cancers preventable, the Hepatitis B vaccine for one.  And the more recent Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccines, e.g. Gardasil which prevents HPV 6, 11, 16, and 18 in girls and women.

Unfortunately, due to a prior commitment I missed the afternoon sessions which covered holistic cancer care, Food and Cancer, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and cancer, Complementary Treatment and Relaxation Therapy.

For the sake of comparison I looked at statistics for Hong Kong:



Lest I be accused to massaging the statistics I shall leave you to draw your own conclusions, and if you don't feel snowed under yet, I can suggest you google for cancer statistics of your country and then compare the data.

And if you have come this far, the SHOCKING NEWS for us today is that ONE out of THREE of us sitting in the audience would get cancer.

But the good news is that not all cancers are a death sentence. And contrary to what some of us had thought, we are NOT born with cancer cells.

Cancer cells are rogue cells; they start off life as normal cells but do not die once they have fulfilled their purpose. Instead, they multiply by doubling (2x2, 4x4, 16x16 and so on). By the time they are noticeable they number a billion!

It's probably over simplification, but chemotherapy tricks cancer cells into self destruction, or by denying them from access to our life blood. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't because they can become resistant to repeated courses of drugs.

However, on the whole it is encouraging because work is continuing on every front to improve the quality of health - and the quality and scope of cancer treatments.

Remember: be happy and relaxed, avoid stress, take some exercise, get adequate rest, eat and drink wisely (alkaline water, organic fruit and vegetables). Avoid synthetics, especially in food and drink.

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