The write-up, "Cancer in the family? Get yourself checked too" (July 31), prompted me to share my recent experiences on cancer tests and diagnosis. Indeed, it is generous of Singapore General Hospital (SGH) to offer free colonoscopy to those tested positive after using test kits for colorectal cancer to be given out at a fair at Suntec City this weekend.
However, such test kits are not foolproof. In some cases, colon cancer is detected only from colonoscopy.
My late mother succumbed to colon cancer in September 1999. Recently, my maternal uncle had symptoms of colon cancer and was referred by the polyclinic to SGH's colorectal department in May this year. His colonoscopy was scheduled on 9 July and the result was made known on 25 July. Is this time-frame the norm for subsidized patients? I was told there is a long queue for colonoscopy.
Hence I am concerned if SGH has sufficient resources to embark on such an awareness campaign - getting people screened and treated early for colorectal cancer.
I reckon early detection of cancer from screening is not the same as prevention of cancer. Detection merely precedes treatment.
From casual conversations with some hospital staff, I understand more people are joining the queue for screening of cancers, owing to the success of cancer screening campaigns carried out by some local hospitals and cancer charities. As a result, the queue for cancer screening at public hospitals gets longer and resources are overstretched. Radiation department personnel in some public hospitals are required to work longer hours to cope with the increased workload.
Survey studies in the United States show that radiologists reported more symptoms of blurred vision, eyestrain, difficulty in focusing, and headache arising from work overload. The huge amount of imaging data generated has the high potential for fatigue, discontent, and possibly increased error rates.
While hospitals strive for medical excellence, please do not overstretch resources which will be counter-productive in the long run.
Lee Soh Hong (Miss)