A retired nurse who once cared for cancer patients, 64-year-old Ms Celina Khoo found that battling her own late-stage ovarian cancer was tough.

“The treatment didn’t scare me, but I went through an emotional roller coaster as new problems surfaced one after another,” she said. “I kept asking, ‘Why me?’ It was difficult to accept what was happening.”
By the time she sought help at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group, in 2009, the cancer was already in Stage 4. After the first operation to remove her womb and ovaries, doctors found the cancer had spread to her colon and intestines.
After a second operation to remove part of her colon and intestines, the prognosis was bleak. Doctors estimated she might have only four months to live. 
But she defied the odds and pulled through after six cycles of chemotherapy and a period of recovery. A thankful Ms Khoo attributes it to divine help and her wonderful doctors and nurses.
Ms Khoo was looked after by a multidisciplinary team at KKH’s Gynaecological Cancer Centre, where women’s gynaecological cancers, such as ovarian, cervical and endometrical, are treated in a holistic manner.

Teams at KKH consist of medical professionals from many disciplines – oncologists, palliative-care doctors, psychologists, nurses, medical social workers and allied healthcare workers. The doctors meet twice a week to discuss cases and treatment options. Patients’ psychosocial and financial needs are also addressed at subsequent meetings.

“Treatment can involve not just surgery, but chemotherapy, radiotherapy, palliative care and psychosocial care,” said Dr Chia Yin Nin, Visiting Consultant, KK Gynaecological Cancer Centre, KKH, one of the oncologists in the team treating Ms Khoo.

“With our ‘team’ approach, patients don’t need to consult multiple doctors or be confused by different opinions. Our team will reach a consensus before we present a single plan to the patient,” said Dr Chia.

Two other doctors from Ms Khoo’s team assessed her suitability for chemotherapy and radiation. They were Dr Lim Sheow Lei, Consultant, KK Gynaecological Cancer Centre, KKH, and Dr Khoo Tan Hoon Seng, Senior Consultant, Division of Radiation Oncology, National Cancer Centre Singapore, both institutions are members of the SingHealth group. At KKH, Dr Khoo serves as a Visiting Radiation Oncologist and a Consultant at the Department of Gynaecological Oncology. Dr Lim said: “For women’s cancers, the most common form of treatment is chemotherapy, which works wonders especially for ovarian cancer. If there’s a high risk of a relapse, we’ll offer patients chemotherapy to wipe out any microscopic cancers we cannot see.”

Dr Lim said multidisciplinary care is important and benefits patients a great deal. “We get expert opinions from everyone. This way, patients aren’t just getting the opinion of one doctor, but 10 doctors.”
Learn about the women's support group available for cancer survivors on the next page.
Ref: N18