Hong Kong compiles database of 13,000 breast cancer patients

Case histories of 13,000 patients - about a third of those with the disease - will give doctors and their patients a clearer idea of what to expect

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 April, 2014, 11:13am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2014, 6:26am

Doctors in Hong Kong will for the first time have access to a new online database of local breast cancer patients next month.

Doctors in the city have previously relied mainly on Western data.

On May 22, the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation will be making its registry of information accessible to doctors.

Relying on donations over the past seven years, the foundation has collected the case histories of some 13,000 patients, about one-third of those who have been diagnosed with the disease.

It's like a foundation stone on which many buildings can be built
Dr Polly Cheung

Dr Polly Cheung Suk-yee, who established the foundation, told the South China Morning Post that the registry would help to monitor the effects of traditional Chinese medicine and other treatments.

After registering, doctors can key in their patient's details, such as age, the stage of their cancer and the type of tumour involved, and see how similar cases were treated in Hong Kong, as well as the outcome.

About 300 pieces of information are recorded in each case, including the characteristics of the tumour, the treatments given, and the outcome of the treatment, including the psychological impact on the patient and whether there was any recurrence of the disease.

Patients can also ask to access the information through their doctors.

"When patients know what position they are in, they will know what action to take.

"It makes them emotionally more stable," Cheung said.

She expects that in five years' time, the database will be large enough to deduce Hong Kong patients' recurrence rates and chances of survival under specific circumstances.

As it expands, the database will also help in research.

"It's like a foundation stone on which many buildings can be built," she said.

The registry started out as a way to gather the information needed to tailor support services for patients.

Reports compiled from the data demonstrated its scope by helping to pinpoint factors that put patients at a high risk of contracting the disease.

A lack of exercise showed up in the case histories of 74 per cent of patients.

The registry covers patients treated at the city's 12 public hospitals, eight private hospitals and 22 private clinics.

Its steering committee includes oncology and public health professors from the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University.

Patients take part voluntarily, with about 95 per cent agreeing to participate.

Privacy is ensured as patients' identity and medical information are saved separately.

Cheung hopes to leverage government support and collaborate with the government's Cancer Registry, which was established in 1963 and reports and monitors trends in cancer incidence and mortality rates.