Cancer is the number 1 killer in Singapore. While genetics play a major role, prevention and early discovery can make a difference between complete recovery and death.
Symptoms include unexplained loss of weight, loss of appetite, changes in bowel movement, rectal/urinary bleeding, abnormal irregular shaped growths, unusual coughing.
However, a sizeable number of cancers do not have any symptoms before they are detected. This is the reason for doing regular screening tests at your family doctor.
Tests should also be based on the person—mainly the age, sex and family history. For example, a person whose parents both had heart disease below the age of 40 should be screened for cholesterol levels, diabetes and high blood pressure even in his 20s.
While cancer cannot be completely prevented, especially as one ages, steps can be taken to reduce the risk of contracting it.
- Exercise—30 minutes of moderate exercise thrice weekly has been shown to reduce cancer rates
- Sleep—there is some evidence showing a link between insufficient sleep and cancer, especially in night shift workers
- Diet—there is a lower incidence of cancer in people consuming a Mediterranean diet rich in whole grains and nuts compared to diets high that increase LDL(bad cholesterol) like chips, cookies and char kway teow
- Smoking—it is well known that smoking increases the risk of certain types of lung cancer. Just inhaling second-hand smoke is enough to increase the risk. Avoid smoking as much as possible
- Weight—being overweight increases risk of bladder, breast, pancreatic and kidney cancers
- Alcohol—while a glass of red wine a day appears to reduce heart disease, any form of alcohol consumption raises the risk of mouth and esophageal cancers
- Stress—anxiety and stress appear to increase cancer risk facilitated by the ATF3 gene
- Sunlight—excess sunlight causes damage to the skin and increases risk of skin cancers. Sunblocks with at least SPF 30(blocking 97% of harmful UVB rays) are recommended, especially in individuals with lighter skin.
Heart Disease and Stroke combined are the next major killer. This usually occurs when a blood vessel in the heart or brain gets blocked or bursts. In many cases, stroke patients are also unable to function and require a full time caregiver, placing a burden on themselves and family.
Early symptoms may include breathlessness upon walking a short distance, unexplained fainting spells, chest pain, and dizziness.
Again, a number of sufferers do not have any symptoms before they hit—which is why screening and early detection is useful.
Risk factors are outlined below.
- Cholesterol—High levels of LDL(bad cholesterol) appear to be linked to heart disease. Medications like statins and foods like salmon and walnuts can lower LDL.
- Blood Pressure—high blood pressure is linked to stroke and heart disease. Whole grains, pomegranates,flaxseed,fatty fish like salmon are known to reduce blood pressure
- Exercise—Moderate activity, ideally at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise thrice weekly, reduces risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Diabetes—high glucose levels increase risk of heart disease and stroke
- Diet—Fried foods, processed foods and those high in refined sugars may directly or indirectly increase stroke risk as well
Screening for the abovenamed diseases are available at any family doctor or polyclinic in Singapore. Just make sure there is no food consumed at least 8 hours before going for the screen so that blood testing is accurate. Kindly contact us if there are any queries.