Plea for HK-wide breast screening

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2005, 12:00am

As grim statistics were released yesterday by the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation, it urged the government to carry out more research before dismissing evidence that early detection can save lives.

'New cases of breast cancer have almost doubled from 1,106 in 1991 to 1,997 in 2001. It is now the No1 cancer in women,' said foundation founder Polly Cheung Suk-yee, formerly of Kwong Wah Hospital and a surgeon.

Dr Cheung said on average 11 women were diagnosed with breast cancer every two days.

'From a woman's point of view it is always important for an individual to know, if it is cancer, to detect it early,' she said.

The lifetime risk up to age 74 for developing breast cancer was one in 23; the chance of dying was one in 116, said William Foo, former director of the Hong Kong Cancer Registry.

The breast cancer advocacy group was launched yesterday amid what it felt was a lack of information on how to prevent and detect breast cancer.

With an incidence rate of 42.6 per 100,000 in 2001, Hong Kong has the highest breast cancer rate in Asia. Japan has 32.7 and South Korea 20.4 yet their governments have been promoting population-based screening.

Dr Cheung said she did not agree with the Department of Health's position that it could not recommend a population-wide mammography screening programme.

'Whether the government is going to spend the money on it I cannot comment because costs need to be studied. But for an individual it is safe to have screening.'

Since introducing screening, the US has seen a 23 per cent reduction in mortality while the cancer detection rate was 5.3 per 1,000 women a year, said Wendy Fung Yuet-ching, a nursing service manager at Union Hospital.

The foundation will also set up a database which would include age, stage, type of tumour, risk factors and other epidemiological data.