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Ovarian cancer, a growing concern

Don’t let this ‘silent killer’ catch you off guard financially

23 Jun 2023
Ovarian cancer, a growing concern

Ovarian cancer ranks in the top cancers affecting women in Singapore1, especially among women between the age of 40 and 60. Dr Elaine Lim of National Cancer Centre Singapore sheds light on the deadliest gynaecological cancer often labelled as a “silent killer” as its symptoms often show only in advanced stages.

1.  Can you give a short introduction to ovarian cancer, especially with regard to it being the top cancer among women?

According to the Singapore Cancer Registry2, ovarian cancer ranks sixth in incidence (new cases) in women and sixth in mortality. Cancer of the ovary is usually already in the advanced stages when detected, as there is still no proven, reliable method of ovarian cancer screening in the general population.

Patients usually present with symptoms such as a bloated abdomen, reduced appetite, and constipation. Contrary to popular belief, ovarian cancer cannot be reliably detected just by checking blood CA125 levels, which is usually included in health screening packages.

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie helped raise public awareness of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer when she underwent prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy to reduce her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, as she and her mother were BRCA mutation carriers.

There have been recent developments in the therapeutic field relating to DNA damage repair and immunotherapy that are relevant to the treatment armamentarium of ovarian cancer.

2. Is genetic testing available for ovarian cancer? 

NCCS offers genetic counselling and germline gene panel testing. With advancements in science, it’s not just BRCA gene that is tested for mutations, but others as well. If an ovarian cancer patient tests positive for any such mutations, 1st degree relatives are also offered testing.

Germline testing looks for inherited gene mutations in the cells of the body – these are gene mutations that have been present since birth, and may be detected from a blood sample. Somatic testing refers to testing the tumour tissue, looking for gene mutations in the tumour cells that are not inherited, but acquired during the cancer process. There are clinical trials for patients whose tumours harbour specific gene aberrations that can be identified through somatic testing.

3. What are the treatment options and how do I keep up with medical advancements and the latest treatment options? 

Surgery plays a critical part in the treatment of ovarian cancer, especially in the earlier, non-metastatic stages of disease. For advanced stages of disease, systemic treatments such as conventional chemotherapy and molecularly targeted agents are more crucial. There is a plethora of information on medical advancements in cancer treatment on many websites, but difficult for patients to sift through, weigh up the pros and cons, and interpret the data correctly and meaningfully – the doctor’s clinical judgement is called for. Therefore, when in doubt, it is best to discuss with your treating doctor.
4. What advice would you give to women worried about this cancer? 
Is there a family history of breast and ovarian cancer? Was the cancer diagnosed at a young age, say in their 30s? If the answers are yes and yes, consider genetic counselling and germline gene panel testing. As mentioned, there is no proven, reliable method of screening for ovarian cancer in the general population.
The article is contributed by Dr Elaine Lim, Senior Consultant in Medical Oncology from National Cancer Centre Singapore. 


As with any debilitating illness, treatment for ovarian cancer would be financially draining – a burden you do not need weighing on you while trying to get your health back on track. With no known ways to prevent ovarian cancer, a sound financial preparation is imperative in light of the stealthy nature of the cancer.

Although Singapore government’s basic health insurance scheme, MediShield Life, can help you with large healthcare bills, it has its limits. Improve your financial preparation with Private Integrated Shield solutions – our GREAT SupremeHealth and GREAT TotalCare plans. Not only do these plans provide you with a coverage of up to 95% of hospitalisation costs, our plans come with comprehensive Outpatient Cancer Drug Treatment benefits to defray the cost of cancer drug treatments not covered under MediShield Life. Terms and conditions apply. 

Contact your Great Eastern Financial Representative to find out more or request for a call back today.

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This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

GREAT TotalCare is not a MediSave-approved Integrated Shield plan and premiums are not payable using MediSave. GREAT TotalCare is designed to complement the benefits offered under GREAT SupremeHealth.

The information presented is for general information only and does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any particular person.

These policies are protected under the Policy Owners’ Protection Scheme which is administered by the Singapore Deposit Insurance Corporation (SDIC). Coverage for your policy is automatic and no further action is required from you. For more information on the types of benefits that are covered under the scheme as well as the limits of coverage, where applicable, please contact us or visit the Life Insurance Association (LIA) or SDIC websites ( or

Information correct as at 23 June 2023.

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