Majority Of Hongkongers Fear Developing Cancer, But Only Few Take Preventive Measures

Cancer Cells
(Photo: Pixabay)

A new survey reveals the majority of Hongkongers fear they might develop cancer one day, but only a few of them have done something about it - such as taking preventive measures. The survey, which was conducted by the Medix Medical Monitor Research, polled 500 Hong Kong residents (aged 30 to 59) and discovered that 75 percent of the participants are scared of having cancer in the future.

Although most Hongkongers were afraid of the cancer crisis, only a third of the respondents took preventive measures including cancer-related screening to detect the illness at an earlier stage. Only 36 percent of women participants had undergone breast examination or Pap smear. As per the Department of Health, the most common form of cancer among Hong Kong women is breast cancer and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in women.

The result of the survey is alarming, said Sigal Atzmon, the president of Medix Medical Services. She said one of the reasons why women have not undergone screenings is that they think their "getting close to death," which makes them scared to take preventive measures. Meanwhile, only 39 percent of male respondents said they had undergone liver function tests.

According to the South China Morning Post, cancer is the number one killer in Hong Kong, wherein it was responsible for more than 30 percent of deaths in 2016. Fighting cancer is a complex ordeal as it's like a race against time while dealing with stress and anxiety. The survey noted that Hong Kong has a complicated medical landscape, where both public and private health care options, and a lack of awareness about cancer makes people confused what's the best path to take.

The finding shows a need of understanding in vital steps involved in the journey of cancer treatment, with only 13 percent of the participants said having knowledge on the stage of the cancer is an important step before getting treatment, while also 13 percent said they consider undergoing a biopsy to identify the type of cancer before treatment. Atzmon said these two results were most "painful," as well as "disappointing."

She said the most common practice in public hospitals in Hong Kong is getting a biopsy to identify the right course of treatments. The major differences between the private and public system, Atzmon added, is that there are tumor boards in public system and every case is being presented to the board - which is a common practice worldwide. The boards include experts such as surgeons, pathologists, radiotherapists, and oncologists wherein they discuss the cases in a meeting. Atzmon noted that this multidisciplinary approach should be more common in the private sector as well.

Head of Medicine at the Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital and Director of Comprehensive Oncology, Dr.Raymond Liang Hin-seen, commends the multidisciplinary approach in general. However, the situation depends on individual institutions - not whether they are public or private. He said not every case in public hospitals go through this process, noting: "they have too many cases and not enough resources."

Meanwhile, another highlight of the survey is that 49 percent of respondents think Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is complementing conventional cancer treatment. But Professor David Zeltser, the global medical director at the Medix Group, said TCM might interfere with standard therapies - like chemotherapy. For instance, he said Asian is often incorporated in TCM remedies to boost the immune system of a patient. However, it reduces the effectiveness of many proven chemotherapy drugs.

"Physicians should be more proactive in obtaining a complete medication history, including herbal medicine use, when advising on a suitable course of treatment," Zeltser said.

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