A Journey Through Colorectal Cancer: Sebastian Ang’s Story

About this article:

  • Follow Sebastian’s cancer journey from his colorectal cancer diagnosis and treatment (TAMIS procedure) to his recovery.
  • Get key information on colorectal cancer in Singapore and the importance of early detection.
  • Understand the vital role of health insurance in managing medical expenses and accessing treatment.

Cancer is a formidable opponent, and colorectal cancer, in particular, is more common than many people realise, especially among men in Singapore.

Sebastian Ang, a 64-year-old retiree, shares his harrowing yet enlightening journey from diagnosis to recovery, emphasising the critical importance of regular health screenings and adequate health insurance coverage.

Table of Contents

Understanding Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, is cancer of the colon or rectum, which is located at the digestive tract’s lower end.

It’s the second most common cancer in Singapore, accounting for a significant percentage of all cancer cases diagnosed. According to the Singapore Cancer Registry, colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer among men and women in Singapore.

Early detection through regular screenings significantly improves cancer survival rates, highlighting the importance of awareness and preventive measures.

Sebastian's initial shock

Sebastian's initial reaction

It was very shocking to me because all along I thought I'm okay, very healthy.

Leading a seemingly healthy life, Sebastian never imagined he would face such a situation. At 64, with a small family comprising his retired wife and newly married son, his life took an unexpected turn when he began noticing blood in his stools. Sebastian thought it was just a normal issue of piles.

My wife looked at the toilet bowl and said to me, ‘I think you need to see a doctor; this time it's different.'

The Diagnosis

A colonoscopy on August 23rd revealed a 2 cm tumour in his rectum.

The news was devastating.

“The doctor told me that it’s very near the anus and requires a major operation. I was really shocked,” he says, describing the two days of unrest that followed.

Colorectal cancer often starts as benign polyps that, if left unchecked, can develop into malignant tumours. Regular screenings such as colonoscopies can detect these polyps early, preventing them from progressing to cancer.

Seeking a second opinion

Determined to explore all options, Sebastian sought a second opinion.

A friend recommended Dr. Chong Choon Seng, a Colorectal and General Surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Orchard.

Meeting Dr. Chong at Mount Elizabeth Orchard Hospital on October 5th was a turning point.

Dr. Chong was different from other specialists. He empathised with my situation.

Dr. Chong proposed a trans-anal minimally invasive surgery (TAMIS), which would spare Sebastian from living with a stoma bag for life. 

This minimally invasive approach is less traumatic and offers a quicker recovery time compared to traditional surgery. This procedure eased Sebastian’s worries.

For T1 cancers, this approach allows us to remove the tumour while preserving the rest of the rectum, significantly reducing the impact on the patient’s daily life.

The Surgery and Recovery

The surgery was successful, and the biopsy results brought immense relief.

“Dr. Chong called me in the morning and said, ‘Congrats, T1.’ I was so relieved. He really saved my life,” Sebastian shared with gratitude.

This minimally invasive surgery allowed him to maintain his quality of life, a crucial factor in his recovery. Minimally invasive surgeries, such as the one Sebastian underwent, are becoming more common and preferred due to their reduced recovery times and lesser impact on the patient’s daily life.

Early Detection Saves Lives

Sebastian’s journey shows the importance of regular health screenings.

Early detection can save your life,” he asserts.

Ironically, although he was aware that health screenings are affordable and widely available in Singapore, Sebastian took his health for granted and did not go for regular screenings. The Singapore Health Promotion Board recommends that individuals aged 50 and above undergo regular screenings for colorectal cancer.

Early detection is crucial in managing colorectal cancer effectively. Studies have shown that the five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer is over 90% when detected at an early stage, compared to less than 15% for advanced stages. 

The FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) is a simple, non-invasive test that can detect hidden blood in the stools, an early sign of colorectal cancer. If the FIT results are positive, a follow-up colonoscopy is necessary to confirm the diagnosis.

The Role of Health Insurance

Sebastian’s story also highlights the critical role of health insurance in navigating such health crises. His experience serves as a powerful reminder of the need for adequate coverage to manage unexpected medical expenses.

“Health insurance is crucial. It provides peace of mind and financial support when you need it most,” he emphasises.

In Singapore, health insurance plans such as Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) offer additional coverage in addition to the basic MediShield Life, covering more extensive treatments and higher hospital class wards.

Ensuring that you have the right health insurance coverage can make a significant difference in managing the financial burden of cancer treatment.

Health insurance is crucial. It provides peace of mind and financial support when you need it most.

In Singapore, health insurance plans such as Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) offer additional coverage in addition to the basic MediShield Life, covering more extensive treatments and higher hospital class wards.

Ensuring that you have the right health insurance coverage can make a significant difference in managing the financial burden of cancer treatment.

A Message of Vigilance and Resilience

Dr. Chong encourages a positive outlook for all his patients.

“Surviving cancer is a long journey, involving not just physical health but also mental resilience. A positive outlook can enhance overall well-being and immunity, contributing to better cancer-free survival,” he advises.

Sebastian’s story is a powerful testament to the importance of vigilance, timely medical intervention, and the support of health insurance. His journey through colorectal cancer, marked by both challenges and triumphs, serves as an inspiration and a call to action for everyone.

Regular screenings, informed medical choices, and adequate insurance coverage are so much more important than we realise, especially in the fight against cancer. 

By sharing stories like Sebastian’s, we hope to shed light on the realities of colorectal cancer and inspire others to prioritise their health through regular screenings and adequate insurance coverage.

Remember, cancer is not as rare as we think, and taking proactive steps today can make a significant difference tomorrow.

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