Hong Kong cancer therapy

Pre-op chemotherapy could help cancer patients keep their breasts, report by Hong Kong support group shows

Treatment shrinks tumours to more manageable size before operation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 8:59am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 3:19pm

Early chemotherapy before surgery is the “new hope” for breast cancer sufferers, as it reduces tumour size and allows patients a better chance of saving their breasts, according to a local support group.

A report by the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation stated that 46 per cent of breast cancer patients could keep their breasts if medicine were given in neoadjuvant setting, meaning treatment done as a first step to shrink a tumour before the main treatment – the operation, in this case. This was compared to just 30 per cent of those who received the chemotherapy after surgery.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy has also been proven to bring overly large tumours down to a size that could be handled by an operation, the NGO said.

It advised breast cancer sufferers to be aware of their right to ask about the treatment options available to them.

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“Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is a new hope for women with breast cancer,” said Dr Carol Kwok, the group’s steering committee member.

The foundation released a report on Wednesday that tracked 12,729 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 2006 and 2015.

Of these women, 7 per cent or 928 patients received chemotherapy in a neoadjuvant setting, in contrast with the traditional approach of doing the chemotherapy only after an operation.

The method was first adopted in the 1980s as a treatment for women with advanced and marginally inoperable breast cancer.

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The foundation warned that Hong Kong women still have a very low awareness about breast cancer and are reluctant to do regular screenings.

Only 10 per cent of breast cancer patients detected the disease through regular screening, much lower than about 50 per cent in other affluent countries.

The group urged the public to undergo screening regularly as “early detection saves lives”.

Breast cancer is the number one cancer affecting women in Hong Kong, with about 3,800 new cases and 600 deaths every year.