He lost 13kg in months
He found he had stomach cancer after losing much weight, but early treatment saved him. APRIL CHONG reports
When civil servant Frankie Wong started to lose his appetite in mid-2008, he did not think anything was amiss at first.
He did not even realise he had lost 13kg over a few months until friends commented that his stomach had “disappeared”.
The 59-year-old, who went from a hefty 90kg to 77kg, used to have a big appetite and frequently had snacks such as instant noodles even after dinner. But from mid-2008, he could skip meals the whole day and not feel hungry.
He eventually sought a doctor’s opinion at a polyclinic when he kept belching. He was referred to a hospital for further checks.
A stomach scope examination at the end of 2008 confirmed that he had early stage stomach cancer.
Shocked, he kept his sickness from his three adult children, who are in their 20s and 30s, and told only his wife.
“The doctor said I had to cut off half the stomach but the cancer could still grow again,” he said.
Hesitant about such an operation, he asked for an alternative treatment and was recommended endoscopic submucosal dissection, a relatively new procedure here at that time.
This involves inserting – through the mouth into the stomach – a long tube with a camera and various special mini-knives attached.
The knives are then manipulated to cut away the cancerous superficial layer within the stomach.
Mr Wong preferred this procedure to having half his stomach removed in surgery. He would also not have to make major changes to his diet and lifestyle.
In December 2008, he went though two rounds of the procedure to clear out the cancer cells. There was little pain and he could go home within days of the operation.
He is now in remission but he still needs to go for follow-ups.
Because of the early treatment, his cure rate is almost 100 per cent.
Looking back today, the grandfather of three, aged four to six, said he was relieved that his condition was discovered early.
Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is often a silent killer as most sufferers are diagnosed with it only at the advanced stage.
Mr Wong, who was a smoker and who had chronic gastritis for three decades, was actually at high risk for stomach cancer.
He also paid little attention to his diet and to his weight.
After his cancer scare, he quit smoking and has cut down on acidic and spicy food like lime juice and lontong which could aggravate the stomach lining.
Otherwise, his diet remains largely unchanged and he is not on medication.
He is now back to his normal work routine as a clerk and tries to spend more time with his family.
He urges those at risk to go for regular screening.
“People should take note when there are changes in appetite or weight loss. When there’s pain, it’s too late,” said Mr Wong.