How could being Chinese and, in particular, Cantonese, be a risk factor? The data strongly indicates that nose
cancer occurs in much higher proportions in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China. Over the years, however, due to cross
marriages and genetic drift, the other Chinese dialect groups are not spared. Of course, the Chinese are not the
only race to suffer from nose cancer; I also have patients from other ASEAN countries, including Malays,
Vietnamese, Indonesians, Filipinos, Myanmar, Cambodians, etc.
After cancer diagnosis, most patients will ask the question, "Doc, what are the foods I should avoid?" As it turns
out, in large population nose cancer studies, researchers have linked it to some Cantonese favourites including
preserved foods, like salted fish, preserved mustard and preserved sausages/meat. The underlying relationship
between cancer and food has been postulated to be a chemical called nitrosamines which can be found in the foods.
However, it is not proven that abstinence of these foods upon diagnosis would reduce the rate of recurrences after
treatment. It may be that a reduction in intake of such preserved foods could reduce the risk of developing nose
My patient who wrote the book had a Neck Lump for several months. It is not always that a neck lump is linked to
nose cancer. Like him, often the neck lumps would have been treated with several courses of antibiotics without
resolution. Nose cancer usually begins growing at the back of the nose but this is hard to detect. In Singapore,
the data reveals that the first presenting symptom in 60 per cent of all nose cancer patients is a neck lump. This
implies that in 60 per cent of patients, the nose cancer has already spread at the time of diagnosis. However,
today's technology allows us to place a simple soft fibre-optic scope into the nose to make a diagnosis, allowing
for the early detection of nose cancer.
Finally, my patient reminded me of the period of times he suffered between the "OK" times that I saw him in the
clinic. It is a great reminder that patients need more than just a single doctor to diagnose, treat and follow-up.
Thus, the complexity of caring for patient with cancer involves the sensitivity to meet the needs of emotional
challenges, fear, physical pain from treatment, advice for future plans etc. I would recommend this book called
"Moments" by Steven Wong- it is a journey that should benefit other patients and also remind the doctors of our
limitations in patient care.