A new $820 million National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) building located within the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) campus – with twice the capacity of the centre’s previous premises – officially opened on Thursday, at a ceremony officiated by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.

The state-of-the-art facility will provide more comprehensive and holistic care for the growing pool of cancer patients here. It has enhanced facilities for cancer care, rehabilitation, research and education.

One in four Singaporeans is likely to get some form of cancer over his lifetime, and close to 40 per cent diagnosed with cancer currently are aged 70 and above, said Mr Wong.

The good news is that efforts made to improve cancer care over the years have borne fruit. Mr Wong said cancer care across the entire healthcare system has improved significantly since the early 1990s.

“Cancer survival rates, measured five years after the first diagnosis, have increased by close to 75 per cent. So getting cancer today is no longer the death sentence it once was, especially if the cancer is detected early,” he noted.

NCCS’ new 24-storey home is at 30 Hospital Boulevard, a stone’s throw from the previous building, and is directly connected to Outram Park MRT station via a link bridge.

The old six-storey building, which NCCS occupied for more than 20 years, had 36 consultation rooms and 55 chemotherapy recliner chairs and beds in windowless spaces. The new building has 64 consultation rooms and 108 chemotherapy recliner chairs and beds in sunlit spaces.

At 92,000 sq m – five times the size of the previous premises – the new building gives off a welcome sense of space. Natural light streams in through the ample glass cladding.

Professor William Hwang, NCCS’ chief executive, said doubling the capacity of the centre was necessary to address the needs of cancer patients in Singapore.

He cited the 78,000 new cancer cases that were reported here between 2015 and 2019, and said that beyond 2030, this number is expected to soar.

By that time, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above. While medication, diet and healthy lifestyles can help reduce the incidence of many diseases and control them, one unavoidable aspect is genetic mutations in the cells as one grows older, which can cause cancer, said Prof Hwang.

NCCS, which sees the majority of cancer cases in the public healthcare sector, has about 160,000 patient visits a year. “With a doubling of capacity, we will have a doubling in terms of the ability to treat patients, contingent on us getting more manpower in the later years,” said Prof Hwang.

NCCS also has three satellite clinics around Singapore.

The centre now has more than 200 oncologists and surgeons, over 210 nurses, and more than 260 allied health professionals.

With Healthier SG – Singapore’s major preventive care strategy – slated for launch in July to keep the population healthy, NCCS has also begun to focus some of its efforts on cancer screening.

Professor Lim Soon Thye, deputy chief executive (clinical) of NCCS, said the centre treats the full breadth of cancers and cancer-related disorders, and it continually seeks to innovate to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease. NCCS has 220 ongoing clinical trials.

It will also be the only public institution here where one can get proton beam therapy, an advanced and highly precise radiation treatment.

When it receives the go-ahead from the Government, NCCS will open the $100 million Goh Cheng Liang Proton Therapy Centre in basement three of the new building. The proton therapy centre is supported by a $50 million gift from the Goh Foundation.

Strategic partners such as the Singapore Cancer Society are colocated on the premises, to better provide cancer patients with accessible care and rehabilitation in the community.

A “Care Corner” station is available for financial counselling on each of the four levels where the clinics are located.

Given the introduction in Singapore of the Cancer Drug List – which includes only the clinically proven and cost-effective treatments that can be covered by subsidies, MediShield Life and Integrated Shield Plans – there is a greater need to help patients with financial counselling, said Associate Professor Ravindran Kanesvaran, deputy chairman of NCCS’medical oncology division.

There was no dedicated space for this function at the old building, and counselling was done at the clinic counters.

Now, patients can head home after counselling as they can pay their bills online and have their medication delivered to them.

The shift to the new building started in late December 2022, and the new NCCS has been fully operational since March.

The new building is part of the first phase of development plans of the $4 billion, 20-year masterplan for the SGH campus. Outram Community Hospital opened officially in January 2022, and SGH’s new Accident & Emergency building is expected to open at the end of 2024.