OPENING REMARKS BY DR LAM PIN MIN, MINISTER OF STATE FOR HEALTH, AT THE LIVER DISEASE AWARENESS WEEK 2014 OPENING AND PUBLIC SYMPOSIUM ON SUNDAY, 21 SEPTEMBER 2014

Professor John Wong, Chief Executive, NUHS

Associate Professor Stephen Chang, President of the Hepatopancreatobiliary Association

Associate Professor Chng Wee Joo, Director, NCIS

Esteemed Colleagues

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to be here with you today at the opening of the Liver Disease Awareness Week, an annual event organised by the Hepatopancreatobiliary Association Singapore.

Burden of liver cancer in Singapore

2.   The liver is the largest internal organ in our body. In Singapore, liver cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men.  From 2009 to 2013, there were 2877 patients diagnosed with liver cancer, of whom almost 3 in 4 (73.3%) were men. Liver cancer is the third most common cause of cancer deaths in men and fourth most common cause of cancer deaths in women.

3.   Currently, the leading cause of liver cancer is chronic, long-term hepatitis due to hepatitis B or C infection. Hepatitis occurs when the liver is inflamed, and may present limited or even no symptoms at all. The risk of developing liver cancer in such individuals is 100 times more than someone without hepatitis B or C. Other risk factors include liver cirrhosis, a condition in which the liver slowly deteriorates and loses its normal functions, and sometimes, excessive alcohol consumption. More recently, studies have indicated that obesity may also contribute to the incidence of liver cancer1.

4.   Unfortunately, liver cancer is often advanced when it is first diagnosed, making it difficult to treat. This is because the early-stage liver cancer does not exhibit specific and visible symptoms. This contributes towards the relatively high mortality rate for liver cancer.

Prevention of Liver Diseases and Liver Cancer

5.   Hence, it is important for individuals with chronic hepatitis infection or liver cirrhosis to undergo regular screening to facilitate the early detection of liver cancer. Treatment of early liver cancer results in better outcomes. Screening for liver cancer entails regular blood and ultrasound examinations. Family members of patients with chronic hepatitis B are also advised to check their hepatitis B status and undergo immunisation if needed.

6.   Everyone can play a part in disease prevention. By being physically active, having a healthy diet with sufficient intake of vegetables and fruits, and being careful with alcohol intake, you can reduce your risk of contracting liver cancer.  Those born before 1987 may not have been vaccinated against Hepatitis B. This is because the inclusion of hepatitis B vaccine into the National Childhood Immunization Programme only started in 1987. So, I would encourage anyone aged 27 and above, who has not already been immunised, to have a blood test done and undergo vaccination if necessary.

CONCLUSION

7.   It is heartening to know that many medical associations and public healthcare institutions are involved in this year’s Liver Disease Awareness Week. While the healthcare professionals will share more on the preventive and treatment options of liver diseases at today’s talks, leading a healthy lifestyle is of utmost importance, so allow me to urge you to take an active approach towards protecting your health, as well as the health of your loved ones.

8.   On this note, I wish you an enjoyable and educational time.

9.   Thank you.


 

[1] Yasui K, Hashimoto E, Komorizono Y, et al. Characteristics of patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis who develop hepatocellular carcinoma. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. May 2011;9(5):428-33

 

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