He didn't know he had colorectal cancer until...
Retiree Michael Lim found out only after attending forum
Retiree Michael Lim, 75, sent his blood and stool samples for testing after attending a forum on colorectal cancer last year.
"The doctors at the forum had asked for volunteers to do so," he said.
It was a good thing he did because he was called back two weeks later to do a colonoscopy.
After undergoing a CT scan, Mr Lim was told he had Stage 3 colorectal cancer.
The Singapore Cancer Registry 2010-2014 shows that colorectal or bowel cancer is the top cancer in Singapore and is ranked the top cancer among men (17.2 per cent), and second among women (13.3 per cent).
More than 9,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.
Mr Lim, who is the father of celebrity Andrew Lim of Under One Roof fame, said he had felt fine and did not have any symptoms.
"I exercise and swim regularly," he said.
"I didn't understand how I could get inflicted with this cancer."
Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer included changes in bowel habits - such as diarrhoea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool - that lasts for more than a few days, rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, cramping or abdominal pain and unintended weight loss.
Dr Sim Hsien Lin, a consultant with General Surgery at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), said some patients with colorectal cancer have no symptoms.
"And by the time they have symptoms, it could be too late, so it is always advisable to go for screening to detect and treat the cancer early before it spreads," she said.
Mr Lim, she said, was lucky because his cancer was detected early and was caught in time.
He underwent chemotherapy and was managed well by the Geriatric Surgery Service's trans-disciplinary team when he had surgery to remove the tumour in May last year.
He was discharged three days later. In the past, Mr Lim would have spent around a week recovering in hospital.
Dr Surendra Kumar Mantoo, a consultant with General Surgery at KTPH, said: "Colorectal cancer can be treated if caught early and patients can usually return to their normal lives.
"The problem is that about 70 per cent of the patients we see in KTPH are diagnosed with the later stages of the disease, when it is more difficult to treat, especially if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body."
Myths of colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer starts in either the colon or the rectum.
Most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp, which starts in the inner lining of the colon or rectum and grows toward the centre. Most polyps are not cancer.
Only certain types of polyps (called adenomas) can become cancer. Taking out a polyp early, when it is small, may keep it from becoming cancer.
Here are five myths of colerectal cancer that have been debunked with the help of Dr Surendra Mantoo, consultant of general surgery at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH):
MYTH 1: 'I CAN'T HAVE CANCER, I FEEL FINE!'
FACT: Some patients with early stage colorectal cancer have no symptoms. It is important to go for screening so cancer can be detected and treated early before it spreads.
MYTH 2: 'CANCER IS A DEATH SENTENCE'
FACT: If colorectal cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it can be treated with surgery without the need for chemotherapy or radiotherapy. About 95 per cent of patients with early stage colorectal cancer recover from the illness and go back to their normal lives.
MYTH 3: 'I'M TOO OLD FOR SURGERY'
FACT: Age is just a number - a patient's overall health is more important when doctors consider whether an elderly patient should go for surgery. Older patients who are frail need to be rehabilitated before and after surgery for a safe recovery.
MYTH 4: 'COLORECTAL CANCER ONLY HAPPENS IN OLD PEOPLE'
FACT: The incidence of colorectal cancer rises sharply after 50 years old, but 5 per cent happen to people aged under 44 years old. So look before you flush and see your GP if you notice blood in your stool.
Forum on beating colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer is the No.1 cancer in Singapore.
The latest five-year figures from the Singapore Cancer Registry showed that between 2010 and 2014, colorectal cancer accounted for 17.2 per cent of cancers in males and 13.3 per cent in females.
To help the public recognise the signs of bowel cancer and encourage them to go for screening and check-ups, the team at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) is holding a "Beat Colorectal Cancer" forum at Nee Soon East Community Club on Sunday, between 8.30am and 11.30am.
The event will include talks in both English and Mandarin about colorectal cancer.
There will also be a health fair, showcasing the best ways to prevent and recover from colorectal cancer.
To register, visit www.ktph.com.sg/bcc2016.