Health + Wellness

Prostate Cancer: Don’t just be aware, take action

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Attributed to Mr Richard Wyber, Head of Healthcare and Vitality, AIA Singapore

Movember may have just ended but the need to seek knowledge about prostate cancer and,  importantly, take action to safeguard ourselves from the potential consequences of this illness should remain a priority.

The scare Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave us all during the National Day Rally 2016 made headlines globally, with news agencies highlighting the surgery he underwent for prostate cancer just last year. Prostate cancer is the number 2 most common cancer among men worldwide, second only to lung cancer.[1]

Prostate cancer is the third most common cancer amongst men and accounts for 12.4 percent of the total cancer diagnoses in Singapore. The number of prostate cancer cases has also increased exponentially in the past 40 years.[2]

On the upside, survival rate after 5 years for men diagnosed with prostate cancer is at 88.5 percent, the highest across all cancer types amongst males in Singapore. [3] This can be primarily attributed to earlier detection as well as the availability of high-quality treatment and cancer management. All these, unsurprisingly, come with a cost.

Non-controllable risk factors such as family history, age and race also affect the probability of a person developing prostate cancer.

There are however, choices men can make to benefit their overall health for prostate cancer prevention. As the pre-eminent life-insurer, AIA Singapore has a role to play in supporting families in Singapore and this is a responsibility we take seriously. To this end, we introduced AIA Vitality, a world-leading wellness programme that gets people living healthily by providing them with tools, support and incentives which reward members for making healthy choices every day. These choices inevitably become good habits that improve their overall well-being.

All thing considered, what then can men do to protect ourselves and our loved ones against the consequences of prostate cancer?

There are 3 steps to it: know your health, improve it and get adequately insured to protect you and your family should you be diagnosed with the illness.

Being well-prepared and protected allows you to focus on getting the best treatment available and making a full recovery after. This is simply not the time to be burdened by the knowledge that you may not be able to afford the medical procedures required and that your family is in a financially precarious situation.

Here’s what the three steps entail to prevent and safeguard against the consequences of prostate cancer on you and your family:

Know your health

Go for regular screenings and health checks especially as you get older because the chances of men getting prostate cancer rises rapidly after the age of 50.[4]

Screenings such as prostate-specific antigens (PSA) tests and digital rectal exams (DREs)[5] help monitor prostate health so swift action can be taken if anything concerning is identified.

While prostate cancer patients in Singapore have high survival rates, this can be further improved with early detection which also means earlier treatment, increasing the chances of beating the disease.

Cancers in Singapore tend to be detected later than in other developed countries[6] despite Singapore’s vision to become a world-class healthcare services hub.

Improve your health

Making choices to maintain a healthy weight is important as obesity may increase risks of developing prostate cancer[7]. This also means keeping to a healthy diet and exercise regime – habits which are encouraged for everybody’s overall well-being, regardless of gender or whether you are concerned about being diagnosed with the illness.

Going low-fat, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, and eating fish to add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet are some ways to reduce risks of developing prostate cancer, according to research findings.[8]

On getting adequate exercise, men are recommended to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week as studies indicate that following these guidelines may be associated with better prognosis. In fact, walking 4-6 hours weekly has been associated with a one-third lower risks of contracting prostate cancer.[9]

Get adequately insured 

Two aspects of insurance most relevant when an individual is diagnosed with a critical illness such as prostate cancer are medical coverage and income replacement, the former often overlooked but especially crucial when one is unable to continue working.

Medical coverage is provided by MediShield Life, complemented by Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) and riders, to provide essential pre-, during- and post-hospitalisation coverage. This covers a portion of the high costs that can incur from cancer treatments[10].

The second type of coverage which is equally crucial but often overlooked is provided by a critical illness (CI) plan. Payouts from a CI plan can cover the loss of income should one be unable to work as a result of the condition.

3 in 4 (75 percent) Singaporeans who have been diagnosed with a critical illness condition had to stop working fully or partially, and approximately half of them (47 percent) were the sole breadwinners in the family[11], according to findings of  the AIA Health Matters Survey 2016.

This is where critical illness coverage plays a crucial role in protecting individuals and their family with payouts to provide financial support and stability.

Unfortunately, getting a CI plan for income replacement is something many people often forget or simply overlook to their own detriment. This could lead to savings depletion or even debt when one has to stop work because of a critical illness like prostate cancer and could no longer pay for ongoing expenses for themselves and their family.

Conclusion

It is often said that prevention is better than cure, and in reducing the risks of developing prostate cancer, prevention means making the right choices to live a healthier lifestyle.

Equally important to remember is another saying about how it is better to be safe than sorry, and that is where investing in adequate insurance protects both you and your family against the potentially dire consequences of critical illnesses such as prostate cancer.


[1] ‘Cancer facts & figures – Worldwide Data’ (2015) World Cancer Research Fund International. Available at: http://www.wcrf.org/int/cancer-facts-figures/worldwide-data 

[2] ‘Trends in Cancer Incidence in Singapore, 2010-2014’ (March 2016) Singapore Cancer Registry, Available at:  

https://www.nrdo.gov.sg/docs/librariesprovider3/default-document-library/cancer-trends-report-2010—2014_web.pdf?sfvrsn=0

[3] ‘More in Singapore getting cancer , but survival rates also up’ (Nov 27, 2015) Salma Khalik. The Straits Times. Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/more-in-singapore-getting-cancer-but-survival-rates-also-up

[4]‘Prostate cancer risk factors’ (2016) American Cancer Society. Available at:  

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-risk-factors

[5]‘Can prostate cancer be found early?’ (2016) American Cancer Society. Available at:

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-detection

[6] ‘More in Singapore getting cancer , but survival rates also up’ (Nov 27, 2015) Salma Khalik. The Straits Times. Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/more-in-singapore-getting-cancer-but-survival-rates-also-up

[7]‘Why prostate cancer is more aggressive in obese patients’ (Jan 12, 2016) ScienceDaily. Available at:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160112125531.htm  

[8] ‘Prostate cancer prevention: Ways to reduce your risk’ (2016) May Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prostate-cancer/in-depth/prostate-cancer-prevention/art-20045641?pg=1

[9]‘Research News: Regular exercise may boost prostate cancer survival’ (April 18, 2016 Robert Preidt. HealthDay Reporter. Prostate Cancer  Foundation. Available at: http://www.pcf.org/site/c.leJRIROrEpH/b.9386971/k.F7C1/Regular_Exercise_May_Boost_Prostate_Cancer_Survival.htm

[10]National University of Singapore

http://www.nus.edu.sg/nurop/2010/Proceedings/FoS/Pharmacy/Lim%20Yi%20Xiu%20Michelle_U063387N.pdf

[11] Independent survey was conducted by Nielsen among 300 Singaporeans aged 30 – 55 years old without CI conditions, and another 100 Singaporeans within of the same age group who are recovering or have recovered from a CI

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