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Cancer Information

During Cancer

During Cancer

How many types of cancers are there?

There are more than 100 types of cancers that can affect any part of the body.

What is the worldwide cancer death rate?

Cancer is the second leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million cancer related deaths in 2018. Globally, about 1 in 6 death is due to cancer. 

In Singapore, cancer remains the leading cause of death at 29.1% as of 2017.

What are the most common types of cancers?

The 5 most common types of cancer to affect men worldwide consist of (in order of frequency):

  1. Lung, Bronchus, Trachea Cancer
  2. Prostate Cancer
  3. Stomach Cancer
  4. Liver Cancer
  5. Colorectum Cancer

The 5 most common types of cancer to affect women worldwide consist of (in order of frequency):

  1. Breast Cancer
  2. Lung, Bronchus, Trachea Cancer
  3. Cervical Cancer
  4. Thyroid Cancer
  5. Colorectum Cancer

In Singapore, the 5 most common types of cancer to affect men in 2018 consist of (in order of frequency):

  1. Prostate Cancer
  2. Lung Cancer
  3. Colorectal Cancer
  4. Liver Cancer
  5. Kidney Cancer

In Singapore, the 5 most common types of cancer to affect women in 2018 consist of (in order of frequency):

  1. Breast Cancer
  2. Colorectal Cancer
  3. Lung Cancer
  4. Uterine Cancer
  5. Ovarian Cancer 

Does smoking cause cancer?

Yes, smoking accounts for 22% of cancer deaths worldwide. As a matter of fact, tobacco (the main ingredient found in cigarettes) use is the single largest preventable cause of cancer worldwide.

What causes cancer?

One fifth of all cancers worldwide are caused by chronic infections. For example, the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer and the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) causes liver cancer.

Other causes include genetics, tobacco use, diet and physical activity, sun and UV exposure, radiation exposure and other carcinogens.

Can cancer be prevented?

More than 30% of cancer can be prevented, largely by avoiding use of tobacco, leading a healthy lifestyle and moderating alchol intake.

Other ways to prevent cancer include immunisation against the infection of HBV and HPV.

Is cancer contagious?

Cancer is NOT contagious and a healthy person will not be able to contract cancer from someone with cancer. There has been no evidence to suggest that close contact with a cancer patient can result in the spread of cancer.

Cancer cells from one person are generally unable to live in the body of another healthy person as the healthy person's immune system is able to recognise foreign cells and destroy them, including cancerous cells from another person.

Even today, some people tend to stay away from people diagnosed with cancer resulting in the patient feeling ostracised and alone. There is no reason to stay away from people with cancer as the disease is not contagious so don't neglect your loved ones with cancer as they need your support and encouragement the most during this difficult period.

Can cancer be transferred during pregnancy?

Most of the time, cancer rarely affects the foetus directly. Some cancers can spread from the mother to the placenta (the organ connecting the mother to the foetus), however, most cancers cannot affect the foetus directly.

In very rare cases, melanoma (a form of skin cancer) has been found to spread to the placenta and foetus.

Does a lump always mean cancer?

No. A lump can occur in any part of the body and it may or may not be cancerous. A cancer is typically categorised as a malignant tumour and has the potential to spread to other parts of the body and infiltrate the organs.

For peace of mind, it is recommended to perform regular screenings to ensure a clean bill of health or early treatment if necessary. To find out more about cancer screening, click here.

Is cancer hereditary?

While certain cancers have been found to occur within families, this does not mean that the disease has been transmitted from parent to child through genetic material.

Scientists believe that if there is indeed a hereditary component, its effect is minimal.

Is diet linked to cancer?

While there has been no conclusive evidence to suggest a direct link between diet and cancer, it is generally suggested that a high-fat diet will result in some cancers whereas a low-fat, high-fibre diet tends to protect against some cancers.

Can cancer be cured?

Currently, there is no cure for cancer, however, with early diagnosis, proper treatment processes and healthy lifestyle habits, the patient is able to live life normally and fulfilling as like any other healthy person.

What is the best method to treat cancer now?

The best treatment method for cancer depends on several factors particularly the type of cancer, the site of cancer, the spread of the disease and the general health of the patient.

It is best to consult a Doctor to advise on the best treatment method available for the patient's condition.

Befriending Someone with Cancer 

With 1 in every 3 people diagnosed with cancer, you may have encountered a loved one or friend with cancer in your life.

The medical advancements of today have allowed most cancer patients to lead lives as normally as possible, with many of them being treated in an outpatient setting and even capable of living their lives outside of their homes.

However, it is during this period that they require support, encouragement and help the most to help get them through their cancer journey.

Studies h​ave shown that cancer survivors with strong emotional support tend to have a more positive mindset, resulting in an overall higher quality of life.

You could be that someone to make a difference in their lives.

Click here​ to get some tips and advice on how you can offer support and encouragement towards your loved one or friend diagnosed with cancer.

Throughout your caregiving journey, you would probably accompany your loved one for medical visits or appointments at some point in time. We have some tips below to ensure that you are well-prepared and know what to expect during the medical visits.

Organising Paperwork

As you can expect to receive a lot of new information, it is best to organise these materials by keeping them all in one place. You can consider filing them or consolidating all the information in a notebook so that you have all the information readily available in one place.

Try to ensure there are backup copies of the documents in case you lose them and make it a point to bring them down during each medical visit and treatment.

Take some time to go through and digest the information so you have a thorough understanding of the disease your loved one is battling as well as the treatment plan to be expected. This will help you communicate better with the patient, as well as the doctor.

If you're a family member of the patient, you can also help manage the patient's medical expenses such as doctor bills, pharmacy receipts and insurance records by consolidating all the records in one place.

Managing Medications

Try to make a list of all the medications the patient is on, including prescription, over-the-counter medication and any other supplements or vitamins. Also, remember to take note if the patient has any drug allergies.

For a start, you may list down the medications and record them in a medication list. Not sure how to go about it? You can download and print a copy of our medication list template here.

Make it a point to update the list regularly and bring it along during medical visits and share it with the doctor and pharmacist. It would also help to make a note of the balance of medications​ at home before going to the pharmacy. This is so that the pharmacist can help take this into account when issuing the new batch of medication, so that there will not be excess of medication.

At home, you can make copies of the list and have place it at accessible places e.g. sticking in on the refrigerator or giving a copy to the patient so that if someone else comes over to help, they will also be able to know about the patient's medication schedule.

When assisting the patient with their oral medication that is cytotoxic in nature at home, do take note of the following pointers:

  • Wash your hands before handling medications
  • Check if the medications have expired before giving them to the patient
  • If medications do not require refrigeration, keep in a dry place away from sunlight
  • Store medication in a safe place, preferably high places, out of reach from children


 It is important that cancer patients obtain adequate nutrition during their treatment and recovery phase. Due to the disease and treatment process, cancer patients often have increase calorie and protein needs. It is sometimes difficult for patients to consume large quantities of food at a time due to the side effects of treatment. Therefore, it is advisable for patients to eat smaller meals more frequently and choose foods that are higher in energy and protein such as full cream dairy products, nuts and beans.

The disease and treatment process can result in an increase breakdown and use of protein and fat in the body. Cancer patients undergoing treatment often have increase calorie and protein needs. Thus, patients should focus on eating well and adequately in order to optimise their nutrition and prevent unintentional weight loss and muscle mass.

Consult your dietitian to help the patient set achievable lifelong goals in maintaining a physically active lifestyle, a healthy diet and keeping their weight within the healthy weight range. 


A Healthy Diet Plate should consist of:

  • 1/2 of the plate should include a variety of non-starchy vegetables such as tomatoes, mushrooms, kai lan, chye sim, spinach, broccoli, green beans, cabbage, etc
  • 1/4 of the plate should have foods that are protein sources, such as skinless chicken, lean cuts of beef or pork, fish, tofu or eggs
  • 1/4 of the plate should have grains and starchy foods, such as whole-grain breads, high-fibre cereal, rice, pasta, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin 


Wholegrain foods (such as wholemeal bread, oats and brown rice) are better sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre as compared to refined grains (such as white rice and white bread). Refined grains undergo processing, which removes many of these nutrients which include fibre. Studies have shown that wholegrain foods have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancers, especially colon cancer.


Protein is necessary for maintenance and repair of body tissues, especially when one is undergoing cancer treatment. Protein-rich food includes chicken, fish, tofu, eggs and beans. The amount of protein you need depends on your medical condition and treatment. Consult your dietitian on how much protein you need a day.

Fruits and Vegetables 

Fruits and vegetables contain numerous amounts of potentially beneficial vitamins, minerals, fibre, sterols and antioxidants that may help to prevent cancer. Antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids and other phytochemicals. Antioxidants are thought to protect normal cells against damage from oxidative stress. 

Financial Assistance 

Financing treatment costs is a main concern not only for the patient, but for their caregivers as well. If the patient is uninsured and unable to work during treatment, affo​rdability and sustainability for financing the treatment costs will cause stress and worry.

It is important to think about the various costs that could be incurred during the treatment and recovery process so that you will be able to properly budget your finances or seek financial assistance before your loved one embarks on treatment.

The more common expenses incurred during cancer treatment include outpatient costs, medication bills, transportation charges and family expenses etc.

If you require financial assistance, we recommend that you speak with your Medical Social Workers as they will be able to provide recommendations on the various financial assistance schemes you are eligible for.

Medical Social Workers @ NCIS

At the NCIS, we have a team of Medical Social Workers working together with our Doctors and medical professionals to provide support for our patients and their loved ones in the course of their illness. They provide assistance in the areas of financial needs, care needs, as well as emotional support to cope with the disease.

If you need to seek assistance from our Medical Social Workers, do speak to your Doctor so that they can help make a referral. Thereafter, your Medical Social Worker will assess your resources and needs before sourcing for suitable funds and resources to ensure that your needs are met. In some cases, financial documents are required so it helps to get these documents ready to facilitate the process.

Contact Us

Patients and their caregivers can also call +65 6772 8278 to make enquiries or make an appointment to meet with our Medical Social Workers. However, our Medical Social Workers will first have to contact your Doctor to know more about the treatment that you are currently going through in order to better understand the needs you may have.

Other Useful Links
All Singaporeans are covered by heavy government subsidies of up to 80 per cent of the total hospital bill in acute public hospital wards.

Some of the government-funded schemes include Medisave, MediShield, Medifund and the Medication Assistance Fund.

To find out more about these schemes, visit:


Research has shown that exer​cise and healthy eating can help to reduce not only the risk of cancer, but also, recurrence of cancer.

Recent clinical trials have shown evidence that women who exercise after completing breast after completing breast cancer treatment live long and have lesser chance of recurrence.

It is important to exercise regularly to keep the muscles working as well as possible. Exercise helps prevent problems caused by long-term bed rest such as stiff joints, weak muscles, breathing problems, constipation, skin sores, appetite loss and mental changes. It also aids in reducing stress and relieving fatigue. Exercise helps to improve bone health, muscle strength and overall fitness.

Exercise for Cancer Patients & Survivors

*Before embarking on a moderate to vigorous exercise programme, it is best to seek your doctor or physiotherapist's opinion.

Below are some recommended exercise routines for cancer patients and survivors to keep healthy.
Generally, there are three types of exercises:

  • Stretching / Flexibility Exercises (e.g. for arms, legs, chest, back) - Stretching is extremely important, and can help to stretch out scar tissues, lessen stiffness and improve posture. This is especially important if you had surgery or radiation therapy.
  • Aerobic Exercise (e.g. brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling) - Aerobic exercise trains your heart, lungs, blood vessels and muscles to work more efficiently, thereby increasing your stamina and energy levels.
  • Strengthening / Resistance Exercise (e.g. lifiting weights, isometric exercises, resistance bands) - Resistance exercise uses weights or resistance bands to strengthen your muscles. This builds lean muscle tissue which raises metabolism and reduces body fat. Strengthening muscles that were weakened during surgery or radiation therapy can help to prevent future pain and musculoskeletal complications.

Things to take note of during exercise

  • Start slowly, think "a step at a time". a time”. Before you start, make sure you have clearance from your doctor. Start off with exercises that are easy and comfortable. Progress by increasing the number or duration of exercise sessions. Gradually increase exercise intensity only when you are ready. Consult a physiotherapist if you are unsure how to exercise appropriately.
  • Always “warm up” and “cool down” to prevent injuries. “Warm up” at the start of the exercise helps to gradually increase heart rate and prepares the body for exercise. “Cool down” at the end of the exercise helps to gradually reduce heart rate and prepares the body to return to its resting state.
  • Be aware of the proper technique of each exercise. Ask a physiotherapist to show you how to safely perform exercises that you are unfamiliar with.

Physical activity can also be increased without leaving the house. Here are some tips on how you can inculcate physical activity into your daily routine:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Take frequent breaks throughout the day to stand, stretch, and take short walks
  • Check the kitchen for cans or bottles to perform light weight-lifting exercises

As a caregiver, it is important to provide your loved one with motivation and encouragement by accompanying them on walks or other exercise routines. Encourage them to do as much as possible for themselves.

What to watch out for

If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop exercising and rest:

  • Extreme or unusual breathlessness or wheezing
  • New or sharp pain
  • Unusual sweating
  • Headache, dizziness or light-headedness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps or pain

If the above symptoms do not go away with rest, consult a doctor.

If you experience any of the symptoms below during exercise, stop & consult a doctor.

  • Tightness, pressure or pain in the chest, arm, neck or j​aw
  • Irregular heartbeat or palpitations

Blurred vision, new numbness, or tingling in the arms or legs

Active Living at NCIS

Here at the NCIS, we offer a series of programmes that are designed to help cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers stay active and healthy.

These are some of the fitness programmes that are currently offered:

  • Relax Your Mind Yin Yoga Classes
  • NPC oneHeart Support Group Nature Walks

To stay updated on new and upcoming programmes offered at the NCIS, check out our full events calendar here.​​