Prof Ho Peng Kee, Patron of CCF

Mr Ho Cheng Huat, Chairman of CCF

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and gentlemen

1. A very good morning to one and all. I am happy to be here to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Children's Cancer Foundation (CCF). It is uplifting to be in the company of so many volunteers, partners, as well as those who have bravely fought the good fight, and become stronger. Indeed, this exemplifies the theme of today's symposium, 'Together We Are Stronger'.

Supporting children with cancer

2. I would like to congratulate CCF on achieving this milestone. CCF has been a key leader in providing emotional, financial and psychosocial support to over 2,800 afflicted children and their families since 1992. This is very important to them, as the experience of childhood cancer is often devastating for both the child and his or her family.

3. CCF provides holistic care by working with the various stakeholders in the hospital, community and the home setting. In hospital, CCF's caseworkers help children undergoing active treatment by providing additional support, such as therapeutic play and support activities for their caregivers. In the community, CCF's social workers provide continual care for survivors, help children return to school and support the patients' siblings. In the home, CCF provides palliative and bereavement support to children and their families during this extremely challenging time to improve the patient's quality of life. This continuum of care has allowed for a one-stop service to achieve the best possible care for children with cancer.

4. Over the past few decades, childhood cancer survival rates in Singapore have improved. The five-year survival rate for the most common type of leukaemia, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), has climbed from 40 percent in the 1980s to 80 percent in the 2000s. More specifically, our present chemotherapy regimen produces a five-year overall survival rate of 92 percent1, which is comparable to that of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the top paediatric cancer hospital in the world.

5. Nonetheless, the role of CCF is no less important today than it was 25 years ago. In 2015, 140 children were diagnosed with cancer. Among these children, the largest group comprised those aged below five. These children and their families continue to benefit greatly from the support that CCF provides.

A collaborative approach towards children's cancer

6. The theme for this symposium 'Together We Are Stronger', aims to bring out the importance of voluntary welfar organisations like CCF, working closely with healthcare institutions, to strengthen the support networks for our childhood cancer patients and their families.

7. I am pleased to announce that this year, CCF and KK Women's & Children's Hospital (KKH) will jointly embark on two new programmes. The first is the CCF paediatric oncology survivorship programme which is aimed at paediatric cancer and haematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients during their therapy period and beyond. It seeks to equip them with the resources and knowledge to lead healthy and independent lives beyond their cancer treatment period. The second is the CCF psychosocial and supportive care programme for Paediatric Oncology. There will be neuro-psychosocial support such as screening for cognitive difficulties, dietetics and nutritional care to help the children achieve normal growth and weight gain, as well as rehabilitation under this programme.

Celebrating our cancer warriors

8. This morning, as we commemorate CCF's work over the past 25 years, let us also celebrate the will and hope of our young cancer warriors. Allow me to share two stories with you.

9. 15-year-old Jun Jie was diagnosed with ALL in early 2015. With CCF's financial assistance, Jun Jie was able to receive a bone marrow transplant. CCF also assigned him with a volunteer tutor to help him catch up with his studies at home, as he was unable to return to school. Subsequently, Jun Jie attended classes at Place for Academic Learning and Support (PALS), a learning centre set up by CCF to help children like Jun Jie catch up with his studies. I am heartened to learn that Jun Jie has resumed his studies at his secondary school in January this year, despite being away from school for two years.

10. I was also encouraged by the story of eight-year-old Yasmine Lynn Anuar, who in 2013 was diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma, a form of liver cancer in children, and had to undergo surgery and chemotherapy. During that period, CCF provided financial assistance to help the family cope with the financial burden. Yasmine also spent hours in therapeutic play with CCF's therapists, to help her cope with medical procedures and prolonged hospitalisation. CCF's learning centre also helped Yasmine to catch up with her studies, which eased her transition to Primary One in 2014. I am happy that Yasmine is now doing well in Primary Three, and participates actively in CCF activities.

11. Jun Jie and Yasmine's strength and hope in the midst of crushing difficulties is an inspiration to all of us and I would like to commend them, and all our young cancer survivors, for their resilience and courage against the odds. Their experiences encourage us to continue expanding the support system for children with cancer, so as to better assist them through this journey.

12. As we celebrate CCF's 25th anniversary, I would also like to commend the CCF team for their hard work over the past 25 years in supporting and bringing hope to children with cancer and their families. The CCF team, volunteers, and staff deserve a big round of applause. I believe that CCF will continue to work closely with patients, families, and the healthcare network to build a brighter future for our children with cancer.

13. In closing, let me wish all of you a most fruitful 25th anniversary symposium with many takeaways. Thank you.

Source: Ministry of Health, Singapore