In 2011, cancer was the top cause of death in Singapore. While cancer is unfortunately common, doctors may treat and potentially cure many types, most especially in their early stages. Cost-effective and simple screening tests detect certain types of cancer even before symptoms show.
Types of Cancer Screening Tests
The Academy of Medicine Singapore’s Screening Test Review Committee recommends these cancer screening tests:
- Colorectal Cancer: Colonoscopy and FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test)
Colonoscopy involves an endoscopic exam of your colon and rectum, which is your large intestine’s inner lining, using a tiny video camera or fibre optic camera mounted on a flexible, narrow tube. The camera passes through your anus to enable direct and clear visualisation of your large intestine and your small intestine’s lower portion.
Doctors collect tissue samples or biopsies. Through this, they may also remove tumours and suspicious growths.
The FIT test or stool test involves testing for blood in your stool, which may be an indication of colorectal cancer. Start taking annual FIT tests when you reach 50 years old. You should also start getting a colonoscopy every 10 years when you reach 50.
- Cervical Cancer: Pap Smear (Papanicolaou)
The test involves scraping sample cells from your cervix during a pap smear. Doctors thoroughly examine these samples using a microscope to see if there are any abnormal cell changes that may be cancerous or pre-cancerous. The National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) says early detection results in better survival rates. Sexually active women or those who’ve had intercourse should have pap smears every three years starting at age 25.
- Breast Cancer: Mammogram
The Singapore Cancer Society names breast cancer as the number one cancer killer of Singaporean women. Mammogram involves examining the breast via low-energy x-rays to check for early cancer signs. The radiographer will position and compress your breasts between plates connected to a special camera capable of taking x-ray images.
A radiologist will check the images for any abnormalities. Women should begin getting yearly mammograms starting age 40. Women aged 50 and above should get mammograms once every two years.
Screening for other types of cancer may not be for the general population. Speak to your doctor if you have increased risk factors and wish to undergo screening for other cancer types.