Study’s nose cancer screening expanded to three more polyclinics in bid for better, earlier diagnosis

3 months ago 122

SINGAPORE - It was a persistent sore throat that would not go away despite having seen a general practitioner twice. Mr Choy Chan Hong had a niggling suspicion that it could be something worse, having lost his father to nose cancer.

Then 41, he got a referral to see an ear, nose and throat specialist at the National University Hospital (NUH). His worst fears were confirmed and he was diagnosed with Stage 4A cancer in May 2017. “I was in my early 40s, and I was dreaming of career, cars, and condos. Cancer is the last ‘C’ you’ll be dreaming of,” said the civil servant, who is now 47.

“You can get a sore throat from eating potato chips the night before. How would someone know if the sore throat is because of chips or because of cancer?”

To evaluate tools for the early diagnosis of nose cancer, the National University Health System (NUHS) will be rolling out screening for the disease to three more polyclinics as part of a five-year study.

The study is part of an integrated research programme involving the National University Cancer Institute, the National Cancer Centre and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s Genome Institute of Singapore to detect nose cancer earlier and improve patient survival rates.

The study, which was launched in November 2022 and currently conducted in Jurong and Pioneer Polyclinics, was recently extended to Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang and Clementi Polyclinics.

Over five years, NUHS hopes to recruit 15,000 males and 5,000 females between the ages of 35 to 60 for the study. So far, it has recruited 2,200 patients. Those who meet the age criteria and are of Chinese, Malay or mixed heritage can register their interest online.

The screening will be free for participants and will consist of providing blood for a serology test, self-collection of saliva, and a questionnaire.

To detect those who are at risk of nose cancer, the study will use an early antigen serology marker to pick up the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in the nose, said Dr Joshua Tay, consultant at NUH’s Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. The Epstein-Barr virus has been linked to nose cancer as it has been found in nearly all nose cancer cells, added Dr Tay.

Those who test positive for the marker will be co...

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