Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at the launch of the Singapore Cancer Society's 50th Anniversary Celebrations, 4 February 2014, Jalan Besar Community Centre

Mr Choo Eng Chuan, Chairman, Singapore Cancer Society

Dr Ang Peng Tiam, Chair, 50th Anniversary Celebrations Committee

Members, and corporate and community partners of the Singapore Cancer Society

Ladies and Gentlemen

1.          Good afternoon. It gives me great pleasure to join you at the launch of Singapore Cancer Society’s 50th anniversary celebrations today, which also happens to be World Cancer Day.

2.          For the past 50 years, the Singapore Cancer Society, or SCS, has played an important role in its mission to “Minimise Cancer, Maximise Life”. Today, SCS’ mission remains an important one as cancer remains the top cause of death in Singapore. Colorectal, lung and prostate cancers are the top three cancers among Singaporean men while breast, colorectal and lung cancers are the top three cancers among our women. More can be done to reduce the health burden posed by cancer to patients, their families, and to the society.

3.          There are many things we can do to reduce our risks for cancer – adopt a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise, healthy diet and by staying smoke-free. Today, I would like to focus on the importance of making it a habit to go for regular screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers. For these cancers, there is good evidence that early detection and treatment will be able to save lives, because cancer, when detected and treated in the early stages, has better outcomes.

4.          MOH has put in place many measures to ensure that Singaporeans can have access to affordable, convenient and good quality health screening. Most recently, we enhanced the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) so that Health Assist cardholders who visit CHAS GP clinics for recommended screening – including Pap smear for cervical cancer screening and Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) for colorectal cancer screening – can receive the tests free as well as a $18.50 subsidy per visit for the GP consultation costs. Subsidies for mammograms for breast cancer screening are currently available for eligible women at the Breast Screen Singapore (BSS) centres at the polyclinics. These are just some of the Government’s efforts to encourage Singaporeans to take charge of our health and go for regular health screening and follow up.

5.          Complementing the Government’s efforts at promoting screening are the efforts by key partners such as SCS and others, to actively reach out to Singaporeans to encourage them to undergo screening, and to further lower charges. I am delighted to hear that on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, SCS is introducing FIT50, a year-long project in collaboration with HPB, SingHealth Polyclinics (SHP), National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP) and Parkway Health Radiology, to promote regular cancer screening among older Singaporeans.

6.          Under this new project, three cancer screening tests will be offered at no cost, to eligible Singapore Citizens who turn 50 years in 2014 (i.e. those born in 1964). The tests include Pap smear (to detect cervical cancer), screening mammogram (to detect breast cancer) and Faecal Immunochemical Tests (to detect colorectal cancer). SCS will supplement the government subsidies already provided for these tests, and cover the balance payment for these screening tests, rendering them free of charge. I am heartened by SCS’ partnership in this area, which will augment the enhanced benefits under CHAS to make screening even more affordable. 

7.          Everyone has a part to play in the ongoing fight against cancer. I am supportive of SCS’ longstanding efforts in working together with the Government, private corporations, other Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) and the community in the fight against cancer. Let me give you a few examples.

8.          HPB and SCS have worked closely through the years in public education and community outreach programmes. Corporations like SingTel contribute actively to SCS’ Help the Children and Youth Programme, which provides free tuition to children and youth whose parents are diagnosed with cancer.

9.          National Healthcare Group has also been a key partner and is working with SCS to install a Full Field Digital Mammogram facility at its Bishan clinic. Guardian Health & Beauty has continued to be one of the key partners in SCS’ community health outreach. You will see later how creative agency Up & Up, together with SMRT, has helped turn Lavender MRT Station into a truly fitting showcase  of the SCS and its rich history, helping Singaporeans learn more about cancer through educational billboards, platform door stickers and other creative means.

10.      There are also volunteers, many of whom are cancer survivors who contribute their time and effort to counsel new cancer patients in support groups, raise funds through public donations, and even knit hats for cancer patients undergoing the difficult process of chemotherapy. I would like to call on all Singaporeans today to join us in the fight against cancer. Together, we can send the message to every person who is diagnosed with cancer, “There is hope. There is help. You are not alone.”

11.      It leaves me to congratulate the Singapore Cancer Society in celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. This is a truly remarkable milestone. SCS began as a group of like-minded individuals who wanted to educate a young, independent nation about the dangers of cancer. You just heard the video message from its founding chairman Dr Richard Eu. SCS has evolved to become one of Singapore’s largest community-based VWO providing the broadest range of services and facilities geared towards all forms of cancer.

12.      I am happy to note that SCS is making further moves and its leadership has committed $10 million over the next three years to develop its Hospice Care service, to better serve holistically the needs of many more patients in their homes, through counselling, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and bereavement services.

13.      My heartfelt wish for SCS is for another 50 years of minimising cancer, and maximising life.

14.      Thank you.


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