Cancer is the leading cause of death in the Singapore and the world. While it might sound scary, doctors now have adequate resources and a number of treatments that can help you beat cancer.
My experience as a medical oncologist and medical director at the International Cancer Specialists has allowed me to share my knowledge regarding cancer treatments.
In this article, I will talk about:
- Lifestyle changes
- Food to avoid
- Common myths
- Types of treatments
- Side effects
What lifestyle changes should I consider after Cancer Treatment?
After getting diagnosed, I would usually advise patients to continue with daily activities as before. However, there are some restrictions that patients need to take note of like avoid unhealthy lifestyles such as:
- Drinking alcohol
I would also encourage them to exercise regularly and eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, and less processed meat.
It is also crucial to get enough sleep as it will maintain a healthy immune system.
Why is exercising important?
This is why exercising is important :
- It reduces your anxiety and stress
- It improves self-esteem
- It reduces fatigue
- It improves your heart
- It gives you strength
- It helps you stay positive
What foods should I avoid during Cancer Treatment?
When you have cancer, your immune system is weaker. Therefore, certain foods can cause food poisoning or even foodborne illnesses. Additionally, cancer treatments can also give you side effects such as:
- Nausea: this can be caused by drugs, radiation therapy, etc
- Taste changes: this can cause food to taste bland or metallic
- Mouth sores: this can be caused by chemotherapy or swelling
That being said, certain foods need to be avoided to minimise the risk of nausea, taste changes, and mouth sores. That includes: 
- Uncooked or undercooked food. Make sure they are cooked thoroughly.
- Raw or unpasteurised dairy products.
- Unwashed fruits or vegetables.
- Uncooked or undercooked eggs.
- Certain types of fish that may contain mercury.
In addition, people should opt for natural food. For example, eating home-cooked chicken rather than chicken nuggets or chicken patty.
What are some Common Myths about Cancer?
1. Hair Loss is not related to the dose Chemotherapy
Yes, chemotherapy dosage is one of the factors that can contribute to hair loss.
However, hair loss is not solely caused by the treatment.
There are also other factors that contribute to hair loss, such as :
- Type or combination of drugs that you take for the chemotherapy.
- How the drugs are distributed to your body. Some drugs are distributed through your vein, some can be distributed through the mouth.
- Your history with medications.
- Your body’s tolerance to the drugs.
2. Cancer is contagious
There is no evidence that having close contact with cancer patients can get you cancer because the immune system can recognise foreign cells and destroy them.
It is also rare to find a case where a pregnant woman who has cancer transmit her cancer cells to her fetus. 
3. Cellphones cause cancer
So far, there is no evidence that can verify this statement.
There is a study that resulted in an association between phone radiation with salivary glands, but the study is not reliable as only small numbers of participants had malignant tumours .
4. Cancer can be cured using herbal products
There is no reliable research that can prove herbal products can cure cancer.
However, studies have shown that some plants do have anti-cancer effects. Those plants can be used alongside chemotherapy to minimise the side effect of chemotherapy as well as potentially be the cure of cancer in the future. 
What should I do after my Cancer diagnosis?
1. Ask your oncologist about your condition
After you get diagnosed with cancer, it is natural to experience negative emotions. Post diagnosis, you have to understand the type of cancer that you have.
Therefore, you can ask your oncologist questions like :
- The type of cancer that you have
- Whether cancer has spread or not
- Whether cancer can be treated
- Treatments that you can go for
- Lifestyle change expectation
- Side effects from the treatment
Asking your doctor these questions help you during your decision-making process.
2. Tell other trusted individuals about your condition
Tell the people that you trust, such as your loved ones, about your condition.
Being open about your condition helps you face your new reality. Sometimes, your circumstances can cause you to feel negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, etc.
By talking about your condition, you can get support. Remember, you are not alone in fighting cancer.
3. Maintain as much of your routine as possible
Your immune system and body strength will not be as strong as before. However, you still need to live your life as normally as you can. For example: 
- Eat out
- Have fun outside
By maintaining your routine, you can take your mind off cancer.
How are Cancers treated in Singapore?
Some people only need one treatment, and some people need combinations of treatment for cancer.
Depending on the type of cancer that you have, there are different types of cancer treatments that you can consider. Some of the treatments are listed below .
Surgery removes cancerous cells and nearby tissue to prevent it from spreading. The surgeons who are performing cancer surgery are also skilled and experienced.
Before the surgery procedure is conducted, you will be given anaesthesia so you won’t be experiencing pain during the surgery process. There are 3 different types of anaesthesia: 
- Local anaesthesia: This type of anaesthesia only causes numbness to a certain area of your body.
- Regional anaesthesia: This type of anaesthesia causes numbness to a larger area of your body. For example, an arm or a leg.
- General anaesthesia: This type of anaesthesia causes you to have a deep sleep and be unaware of the procedure.
That being said, surgery alone is usually not effective enough to treat cancer.
Some treatments are also done in combination with surgery, such as:
- Cryosurgery: This procedure is using cold to destroy the cancer tissue.
- Laser: This procedure is using a laser beam to cut through tissue and can focus on tiny areas.
- Hyperthermia: This procedure is using heat to kill cancer cells or make them more sensitive to radiation and certain drugs that are used for chemotherapy.
- Photodynamic therapy: This procedure is using certain drugs and light to kill cancer cells. The light will activate the drugs and kill nearby cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is the term for treatment where one uses drugs to kill cancer cells, stop the cells from spreading or slow down the cancer growth. It can be used for a wide variety of cancers.
Chemotherapy is distributed into your body through your bloodstream. The method of distribution of the drugs also vary: 
- Through your mouth (oral)
- Through your vein (IV)
- Injected under your skin or into your muscle
- Through your artery (intra-arterial)
- Through your abdomen
- In a form of topical cream
Depending on the dosage of drugs that are used, you may experience side effects such as tiredness, nausea (can lead to vomiting), hair loss, and pain .
3. Radiation therapy
As the name implies, radiation therapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells. There are 2 types of radiation therapy: external and internal (brachytherapy).
During external radiation therapy, the device emits an energy beam specifically to the area that is being treated whereas a radiation source is placed into the body during brachytherapy. 
Immunotherapy is a type of biological therapy. This procedure uses substances that boost your immune system and let your own body fight cancer cells. Immunotherapy can also kill cancer cells, stop cells from spreading, and slow down the cancer growth. 
5. Hormone therapy
Hormone therapy uses medicines that lower the amount of hormones that are produced in order to slow down the cancer cells or stop it from growing.
However, not all types of cancer are suitable for hormone therapy. This therapy only works for the type of cancer that require hormones to grow such as:
6. Targeted therapy
Targeted therapy uses drugs or substances that can precisely identify the specific protein that controls how cancer cells grow and spread and kill cancer cells.
This treatment is usually combined with chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy .
7. Stem cell transplantation (SCT)
This procedure is usually for Leukemia and Lymphoma patients. SCT is usually known as a bone marrow transplant because the blood stem is produced in the bone marrow.
That said, this procedure is done by replacing the patient’s stem cells with healthy stem cells and beginning the process of forming new healthy blood cells .
What are the side effects of Cancer treatments?
Usually, cancer treatments give patients side effects if it damages healthy cells.
Every patient will experience different side effects differently, depending on many factors such as: 
- The type of drugs
- The duration of drugs being used
- Patient’s general health
- The dose is taken
- How the drugs are distributed into the body
- Other treatments or drugs that the patient have
Some of the side effects that you might experience are: 
Hair loss (or alopecia)
Hair loss can occur because the drugs that patients take for cancer are strong. This is why doctors usually suggest their patients shave their head before beginning cancer treatments. However, this condition is not permanent because the hair will grow back after treatment is finished.
**Common when patients are undergoing chemotherapy. Sometimes nausea can also lead to vomiting.
**Weakened immune system
**It is best to avoid sick people as you can easily get infected due to the low immune system. If you feel sick, you should immediately contact your doctor.
Decreased white blood cells (Neutropenia)
Common to occur after chemotherapy since chemotherapy works by killing the fast-growing cells in your body. Sometimes, that includes healthy cells as well.
What support can I get from the Singapore Cancer Society?
Singapore cancer society can help provide you with information regarding coping with cancer and treatments. Singapore Cancer Society can also help you by giving:
- Practical support by giving tips to plan and set your expectations before you start cancer treatments.
- Emotional support by providing support groups
- Financial support by giving tips on how to work out a budget and providing financial assistance
I wrote this article in hopes that everyone can maintain a positive attitude during cancer treatment. There are a variety of advanced treatments that may be able to increase your risk of surviving your battle with cancer.
It is highly advised to maintain a healthy lifestyle, consistent with your treatment, and keep a positive attitude. I suggest you talk to your doctor if there are prolonged and unexplainable symptoms.