Tests reveal high rate of colorectal cancer among elderly Hong Kong people

Some 6 per cent diagnosed with the disease after testing positive for blood in stool and undergoing a colonoscopy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 February, 2017, 4:45pm

Colorectal cancer was found in more than 6 per cent of elderly people who underwent a colonoscopy in a government pilot programme – double the figure expected.

The first participants in the scheme, launched in September, were aged 68 to 70, and it will be extended to cover those born from 1946 to 1951.

The Centre for Health Protection said current figures might not be conclusive as only data from the first three months were available.

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About 12,900 people had joined the free scheme so far and 10,008 people had received the results of their initial faecal tests to detect blood in the stool.

Some 14.2 per cent tested positive for blood and 799 people had then completed the colonoscopy.

“Participants [in the first phase] were 68 to 70 years old ... it is clearly known that the rates of those with adenoma or colorectal cancer would be higher for those of older age,” said Dr Regina Ching Cheuk-tuen, a consultant in community medicine at the centre.

As of December 29, 51 out of 799 elderly who had completed their colonoscopy examinations were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and referred for care. As the rate was higher than the official estimation, which was three cancer cases out of every 100 patients checked, Ching expected a more accurate figure would be yielded over a longer period of time.

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Some 70 per cent of participants, or 560, were also detected with adenoma, a type of tumour that can progress into cancer, and had them removed.

Six people suffered severe complications in the form of intestinal bleeding during the colonoscopy.

“All were stable, with three of them requiring another round of colonoscopy to stop the bleeding,” Ching said.

Some 597 primary care doctors and 134 specialists have enrolled in the subsidised scheme.

Ching expected it would take no more than 13 weeks for patients with positive blood tests to be referred for a colonoscopy and to receive the results.

Professor Cindy Lam Lo-kuen, a member of the programme task force, reminded people who had symptoms of colorectal cancer to skip the screening and visit a doctor directly.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying promised to introduce a screening programme in his policy address in 2016. Colorectal cancer is the most common ­cancer in Hong Kong and the second deadliest. In 2014, 4,979 people were newly diagnosed with the disease and 2,034 died from it.