Our reader came across a very unfortunate case of a Singaporean wife who had written to the government’s REACH web portal to complain about the treatment that she and her husband had received at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH). According to the wife, Mrs Mala, her husband had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Doctors had failed to spot the cancer until it was too late to treat despite 3 CT scans over the course of 6 months. When the couple tried to demand answers from doctors at SGH, they were brushed off and told that it would not have made a difference even if the cancer had been detected early.

Read her full letter here.

Dear Reach,

Thanks for helping me all this while…

This is to bring an urgent health care matter to your attention. My husband, Mr Kana is fighting for his life due to an incurable cancer and he has been given only a few months to survive. My husband’s cancer was detected and untreated for a long time due to the misdiagnosis and repeated errors by his doctors. In spite of early trials that clearly pointed to the potential cancer, his doctors did not pay attention to those early reports and recommendations by the radiologist. Even after detecting cancer, his doctors did not afford my husband the proper care that he deserves and available. We have been trying to meet with the doctors and to cause some answers for the plight of my husband.

On April 2014, CT scan abdomen and pelvis shows Normal pancreas as visualized, Thickened wall in sigmoid colon (part of large bowel above the rectum), Lymph nodes in abdomen largest measuring 1.5 x 0.7 cm and Persisting lung nodules are also present in left lower lobe, that are highly suspicious for metastases (Lung Spread).

Again, 2nd CT scan for chest in August 2014, Shows randomly distributed lung nodules measuring 3 to 5 mm, which are strongly in favour of cancer spread on the left and right lobes where there is clear mention of angiocentric lung spread from a hidden tumor growth. Abnormal blood lab reports.

Finally 3rd, CT scan abdomen and pelvis dated Oct 2014 shows there is a mass in the head of the pancreas measuring 3.6 x 3.4 cm features showing local infiltration. Abdominal lymph node enlargment due to metastasis. Small areas of increased blood flow noted in liver.

This was dragged from 28th April 2014 to 28th October 2014 and my husband was finally diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer with metastatic. ( Pancreatic cancer with lung spread).

When I demanded for a explanation an Associate Professor Ong Hock Soo of Singapore General Hospital from Department of Upper Gastrointestinal & Bariatric Surgery said that the pulmonary nodules are something that cannot be detected in early stage. Whereas, Ms Vivian Ang Wee Wee from National Cancer Centre Singapore of Cancer Education Helpline, she suggested CT scan thorax and Pet scan and , Ms Jamien Song from National University of Cancer Centre a Oncology Nurse recommended MRI Lung, Biopsy and Pet scan can detect pulmonary nodules in early stage. Even American Cancer Society and few other medical experts told me the same. During the meeting, A/Prof told us the following,

1) Pulmonary nodules cannot be detected in early stage and no further scans can be done.
2) Doctor’s pursue their own context and its not a must to follow radiologist report.
3) The medical reports of my husband carry the comment that “The pancreas was unremarkable” in April and August 2014. Only in October he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Had it been detected in April or soon after my husband would have had a better prospect for treatment. When this question was asked, the answer given was “what difference would it have made had we observed it in April rather than October”. Is this is what is required of a person in such caliber and position!!. This clearly shows the irresponsible and neglective attitude of the expert/s concern.

I am really puzzzled by A/Prof Ong’s statements.I feel like nurses are well versed than doctors. Irrespective of any special care and approach a simple appropriate approach in this event would have provided my husband a better chance of survival or a prolonged life, But now he is left to count his days. And I question how many others are left in this plight.

There are many organizations extensively working in Singapore to make early detection, cancer prevention and cancer awareness. I would like to draw their attention to this case and urge them to divert some of their attention to such medical negligence which would in turn contribute to the number of cancer deaths in the nation…

Thank you.

Best regards,
Mrs Mala

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