Life as you know it
“Even if it was your diet that caused the cancer, the cause has been there for the past few decades, and a few days of changing your diet is not going to treat it.”
Dr lim hwee yong
Years in practice 24
One of the key advances in cancer treatment is doctors’ ability to control side effects.

What are some common misconceptions people have about cancer?

There are so many. Cancer is inevitably fatal; chemotherapy will kill you; that it is bad across the board. This has turned many people away from treatment, as they think it is a terminal condition, and chemotherapy is not going to help – allowing the disease to worsen sometimes from early to late stage.

Another misconception is that patients cannot take glucose, because glucose feeds the cancer. But what patients forget is that we survive on glucose. Even if we were to avoid all refined sugars, the blood glucose has to come from somewhere. Carbohydrates are vital to life and it just so happens that the tumour feeds on it too. In fact the tumour needs everything else, like protein and fat, which all comes from the body. That is a common dietary myth, and patients just grow thinner.

We’ve seen people refusing standard treatments and choose only to do dietary adjustments. Even if it was your diet that caused the cancer, the cause has been there for the past few decades, and a few days of changing your diet is not going to treat it. It’s a disease with deeply entrenched roots.

The most common reaction is people running away from treatments. We frequently see patients coming back after a period of time with dire consequences, with the disease evolving from being curable to non-curable.

What is one thing people don’t know about but should?

Early detection and treatment can save lives. That is a very important message. If you look at colorectal cancer, we’re talking about more than 90 per cent cure rate in the early stages. And this is similar in breast cancer. There are many misconceptions or fears that are not helping patients who need treatment. And those fears may be unfounded.

One of the biggest breakthroughs over the past 10 years is symptom control. Think about it: If patients experience a lot of side effects from the treatment, they are not going to follow through with it. That doesn’t benefit anyone. The only way to get the patient through, and forward to, the next treatment, and to reach the treatment goals, is to make sure the side effects are minimised. And with the latest advances, we are able to do treatments with less and less side effects.

Many years ago, the patient would be throwing up many times a day and feel miserable. Now, he can get treatment while pursuing an active full day routine. In fact, one patient said his friends told him he didn’t look like he had cancer. And these were friends who had warned him – “once you touch radiation you will be on the ground, begging, because it’s so painful”, “chemo will make you feel like crap and you can’t get out of bed” etc.   

The thing is – with the latest advances, treatment can be done with the patient still having good quality of life. He or she can continue to work, apart from the hours required for treatment.

For more information, visit #09-41 Novena Cancer Centre, 38 Irrawaddy Road. Tel: 6339-0233.