Cancer Treatment in Singapore

S'pore to offer proton therapy for cancer
by Valerie Chang
Updated 06:55 PM Jul 19, 2012
SINGAPORE - The National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) will be bringing in a new cancer treatment, making Singapore the first to offer proton therapy in Southeast Asia.

Proton therapy is very precise and targets the tumour directly with minimal damage to surrounding tissues. Treatment is enhanced, especially for children, and in areas of the body where X-rays have difficulty reaching.

Many studies have also shown that the risk of second cancers and recurrence is significantly lesser as compared to X-ray therapy, and patients can look forward to a course of treatment shorter than the existing average of five to seven weeks.

A committee of specialists will decide which patients are suitable for the treatment, and it is estimated that 15 per cent of local patients can benefit significantly.

Major hospitals and cancer institutions in the United States and Europe use proton therapy currently. Closer to home, South Korea and Japan offer the treatment as well.

The equipment will be housed at the new NCCS Proton Therapy Centre, as part of the new NCCS building. The proton facility will take up less than half the size of a football field and is three storeys high. 

The new 14-storey building in the Outram Campus is slated to complete in 2017, with construction starting in 2014.

Costing about S$100 million, it is by far the largest medical investment in Singapore to date.

There are currently 39 such centres worldwide.

While patients in the US are currently paying twice the amount of the conventional radiation therapy, the NCCS said it will try to keep the treatment cost affordable. Plans to maintain the current treatment costs for subsidised patients are also in the works.

There is emphasis that proton therapy can leverage on the advantages that the current treatment method provides.

Deputy head of Radiation Oncology at NCSS, Dr Fong Kam Weng, said: "The rest of the time we are going to treat patients with X-ray therapy, because X-ray therapy is still very relevant. Proton therapy does not make X-ray therapy obsolete, so that's something that's very important to understand."