Prostate Cancer 3rd Most Common In Singapore
The Straits Times Thursday, July 7 2011
Over 500 men diagnosed each year, but survival rates are higher if it is detected early
Prostate cancer has climed from being the fifth to the third most - common cancer among men in Singapore in just five years - although the survival chances are also higher if it is detected early.
More than 500 men are diagnosed with this killer disease each year, compared to fewer than 20 a year four decades ago.
With roughly one out of 37 men contracting the aliment, it is not surprising that the number of deaths has also risen, and now stands at more than 100 a year.
But the National Registry of Diseases Office, which produced an information paper on prostate cancer this week, said that early detection and better treatments available today mean improved chances of survival.
Over the past four decades, the chances of surviving prostate cancer have more than doubled - from 40 per cent in the late 1970s to 85 per cent for the 2003 to 2007 period.
Cancer information is collected in five-year blocks.
But the paper also suggested that the high survival rate could, in part, be due to more people discovering that they have this cancer - people who in the past would have died of something else before the cancer gave them any problems.
This is because it often takes many years for the cancer to progress to a point where it becomes a danger.
There are different types of prostate cancer, with some growing fast and others slowly. The paper said the slow-growing cancers are "more common and may not cause any symptoms or shortening of lifespans".
Prostate cancer rarely shows symptoms until the late stage, so many who find out early do so as a result of health screening.
Dr Keith Lim, a radiation oncologist at the National University Hospital, said most patients find out about their cancer fairly early - when chances of survival are 90 per cent or more.
But the paper explained that testing for prostate cancer at a national level is not justified as the blood test - called a prostate-specific antigen or PSA - is not accurate.
Only between 25 per cent and 35 per cent of men with raised PSA levels actually have cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute in the US.
And even among men with the cancer, for many, it grows so slowly that they are likely to die of something else.
Dr Lim said that treating the cancer has "harmful side effects such as impotency, urinary incontinence and diarrhoea".
But he added that men who find they need to urinate often, especially at night; have poor uring flow; or feel they have not been able to fully empty their bladder should consult a urologist. Once the cancer has spread, the survival rate drops to 30 per cent.
In Singapore, Chinese men have double the risk of getting prostate cancer compared to Malays or Indians. In their early 40s, only one in 200,000 men will get the cancer. In their early 50s, it jumps 20-fold to 12 per 100,000. In their 60s, it becomes 12 out of 10,000, and so on.
The top two cancers for men are colorectal and lung.