I Can-cer-vive

29 Jun 2022


Off label cancer treatment and the cost of cancer treatment has made headlines recently. We have also covered this topic last month. Let us take a step back this month and look at some facts and myths about cancer.

What Is Cancer?

Cancer is characterized by abnormal cell growth. Our body is made up of trillions of living cells. Within each cell are genes that control and direct the cell's functions. Normal cells continuously grow and divide and overtime, they die and are replaced by new ones.

However, sometimes this orderly and organised process breaks down. Cancer cells, unlike normal healthy cells, do not die. Instead they continue to grow and divide in an uncontrollable manner. These defective cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumour. Tumours can be be benign or malignant. Cancer cells can also spread when they migrate to other parts of the body, forming new tumours.

What Can Cause Cancer?

It can be broadly grouped into 3 categories.

Firstly, cancer can happen due to hereditary reason. If there is a specific type of cancer that is prevalent within your family, it can be passed down through generations, especially cancers such as breast and colorectal cancer. However, inheriting genetic mutation does not necessarily mean that a person will develop cancer in the lifetime. If you are concern about inherited cancer risk, you can discuss it with your doctor to administer specific test to check.

Next, odds of getting cancer can increase due to lifestyle and habits, such as smoking. Tobacco smoke contains minimally 69 types of carcinogens and hence it is no surprise that smoking increases the risk of getting lung and mouth cancers! Moreover, smoking does not only put yourself at risk. Breathing in excessive second-hand smoke can also increase your chance of developing lung cancer.

Finally, your environment can also put you at risk. It has been well documented that people in certain countries have a higher tendency to develop skin cancer due to higher exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun.

Common Cancer Myths

Myth #1: Cancer is contagious
Cancer is not transmissible, i.e., you cannot contract cancer from another cancer patient. However, there are some viruses that could increase your probability of getting cancer and these viruses can spread if care is not taken. Examples of these viruses are Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Human papillomavirus (HPV).

Myth #2: Superfood prevents cancer
Food such as blueberries, broccoli, beetroot, also commonly termed as superfood, are known as cancer-preventing food. While these foods are good for your health and have shown positive effects in the fight against cancer, it will be an overstatement to say that any food can offer protection against cancer. There is no single food or food group that has proven to be able to do so.

Myth #3: Hair dye can cause cancer
There is some truth to this, and it was from studies done a few decades ago. In the past, certain chemical in hair dye were found to be cancer causing. However, since the 1970s, much of these chemicals were removed from hair dye and modern studies have found that there is no relationship between cancer rate and people with dyed hair.

Cost of Cancer Treatment

Finally, it is perhaps the most important questions, how much does it cost to undergo treatment for cancer. The cost depends on a few factors, namely:

  1. Type of cancer
  2. Treatment plan
  3. Treatment at public or private hospital
Some of the more common treatment involves one or a combination of the following:
  1. Surgery
  2. Chemotherapy
  3. Radiation therapy
  4. Immunotherapy
  5. Stem cell transplant
Here’s a compiled list of fees involved for various procedures extracted from MOH website for Fee Benchmarks and Bill Amount Information on 15 Jun 2022. Total bill paid by 50% of patients, between 1 Jul 2019 to 31 Dec 2020
Beyond the actual treatment cost, there are many other areas of adjustment that a cancer patient and their loved ones must go through. Ultimately, the objective is to improve and maximise the quality of life, less the psychological and emotional stress and worries, as they go through the gruelling process to full recovery.

Fortunately, most of the common treatment cost are absorbed by our health insurance but our health insurance stops there. The cost incurred in the lifestyle adjustment can only be offset by a critical illness plan or a cancer only plan. These types of plans offer a lump sum pay out that helps to defray much of the cost of enroute to recovery from cancer.

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