The National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) is due to open a new building in 2022 that is four times bigger than its current eight-storey building. More facilities are to be included for increased access to cancer treatment and to support cancer prevention. This initiative is in line with the rising number of cancer patients in the country. This new building is said to cater to 200,000 patient visits annually when it opens compared with the 150,000 visits last year.

Added amenities as a major plus point

Situated on the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) campus, this SGD400 million establishment will take a more patient-centric approach and services will be organised by disease group, said NCCS at the building’s groundbreaking ceremony on 2 June. They added that clinical, research and education facilities for every cancer group will be built close together to ensure patients and caregivers can access services better. For example, the breast imaging room will now be closer to the breast cancer clinic.

The new design will also enhance staff efficiency and increase collaboration, knowledge sharing and access to medical and scientific specialists. Ultimately, this will improve patients' outcome. NCCS shared their plans for a new patient resources centre within the facility to aid patients and their caregivers to make more informed decisions for their cancer care and treatment.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said, “NCCS will do more to support cancer prevention and has set up a new Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Health for this purpose.”

Besides that, they plan to set up a mental and physical wellness clinic in the building to offer counselling services and physiotherapy in addition to a clinical facility for the support of manufacturing cell and tissue therapy products.

Proton therapy centre stands out

In keeping with new technological advancements, Gan said the NCCS would collaborate with other healthcare establishments to fully study the benefits of proton therapy for cancer treatment compared to the existing modes of treatment. It will be evaluated based on long-term outcomes, side effects and cost-effectiveness to determine which cancers will be suitable for this treatment. This therapy causes far less tissue and organ damage around the tumours and reduces side effects following treatment due to the more precise targeted approach.

The proton therapy equipment is set to cost about SGD100 million and will be housed in the basement of the building. It features a fixed beam room and four full treatment gantries that are able to rotate 360 degrees, hence, protons are accurately administered to the tumour site.

The proton therapy system, named the Goh Cheng Liang Proton Therapy Centre, will cost close to SGD100 million. Paint tycoon Goh Cheng Liang and the Goh Foundation have donated SGD50 million towards the system and the proton therapy research programme.

Questionable benefits of proton therapy still boost medical tourism

Healthcare institutions in the United States are largely benefitting from this medical advancement as patients from Russia and China flock over to this country for proton therapy treatment. At some centres, this treatment is likened to a vacation with the centres providing outing plans, picnics and celebrations after their treatment is complete.

However, this state-of-the-art therapy does not come cheap. According to data from the United States, treatment could cost between USD30,000 and USD120,000 as opposed to radiation therapies which cost between USD12,000 to USD15,000.

Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society said, “The reality is this is an expensive treatment. More expensive doesn’t make it a bad treatment, [but] highly competent radiation oncologists disagree whether the data is sufficient or not.” MIMS

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