Nearly 300 colorectal cancer cases identified in Hong Kong screening programme
But doctors say this could be due to older age group of participants in first phase of scheme as they are more at risk
Close to 300 colorectal cancer cases were identified in a government pilot screening programme, the Hong Kong Department of Health said on Monday, adding that the scheme would be extended to other age groups next week.
The final phase of the three-year pilot programme, which was launched in September last year, will begin next Monday and also cover Hongkongers born between 1952 and 1955, making an extra 380,000 people eligible.
Under the scheme, participants are subsidised to meet an enrolled primary care doctor for a faecal immunochemical test to detect invisible blood in stool samples. Those that test positive are referred to a specialist for a colonoscopy to find out the cause of the bleeding.
As of last Friday, about 42,000 people have already took part in the scheme. So far 644 primary care doctors and 154 colonoscopy specialists are enrolled under the programme.
In the first 12 months of the scheme, which covered the city’s residents born between 1946 and 1951, stool samples of 39,280 people were analysed.
Of this group, 4,501 were referred for a colonoscopy, and 291 of them were found to be suffering from colorectal cancer.
Dr Regina Ching Cheuk-tuen, head of the department’s surveillance and epidemiology branch, said she was “a bit surprised” to see 6.5 per cent of people diagnosed with cancer after a colonoscopy.
Officials had expected the rate to be about 3 per cent.
Ching said the higher number could be because the programme began with older people, who were more susceptible to cancer. She believed the cancer rate could go down when younger groups were included under the scheme.
Preliminary analysis of 55 cancer cases detected in the first phase of the programme, which covered residents born between 1946 and 1948, showed that most cases were in the earlier stages.
“[Early detection] gives patients a higher chance of a positive response to treatment and a more favourable prognosis,” Ching said.
Among those who completed the colonoscopy, 3,089 of them were also found to have colorectal adenomas, a type of polyp that could possibly develop into cancer cells.
“By removing colorectal adenomas during the examination, such lesions are prevented from turning into cancer,” Ching said.
Dr Henry Yeung Chiu-fat, president of the Doctors Union, said the scheme could be offered regularly in the future as it could help in earlier detection of the disease.