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Thursday, August 11, 2016, 22:29

Hong Kong East Cluster trials new test for prostate cancer

By Willa Wu

HONG KONG – The Hong Kong East Cluster (HKEC) of 12 public hospitals and clinics is running a new test to improve accuracy in diagnosing suspected prostate cancer to help patients avoid unnecessary needle biopsy, said the cluster’s Chief Executive Lau Chor-chiu on Thursday.

The test, which examines the blood from a potential patient, presents to the doctor three indicators after being analyzed in the laboratory. The higher amount the indicators have, the greater the possibility of prostate cancer is.

Poon Wing-tat, consultant of the Department of Clinical Pathology of HKEC, said the new test could effectively increase the diagnosis accuracy rate to 50 percent – 40 percentage points higher than the conventional Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test which was used in most hospitals.

According to Poon, all suspected prostate cancer patients are required to do the PSA test to see the level of PSA in their blood. If the level is around 4 to 10μg/L, a needle biopsy is ordered for further diagnosis. During the biopsy, a needle is inserted through the patient’s rectum to the prostate to extract tissue, and normally the needle will be inserted 10 times.

However, Poon noted that only one in 10 patients who go through the biopsy after the PSA test is diagnosed prostate cancer positive. He also pointed out that biopsy carries a 0.5 to 5 percent possibility of infection. Hence patients will face diseases like septicemia or even death if the procedure is handled poorly.

The new PHI test, which is done after the PSA test, allows doctors to judge more accurately whether a needle biopsy is needed, Poon said, adding that 50 percent of patients with higher amounts of PHI indicators are eventually diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Currently, the PHI test is mainly processed at the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital and serves patients from all hospitals and clinics under the HKEC. According to Lau, the test, which aims to help 2,800 additional patients in 2016-17, has served 500 patients so far. But he did not reveal how many patients were confirmed prostate cancer positive after the test.

Cancer has been the No 1 killer in Hong Kong for 30 years. One in four men and one in five women develop cancer before the age of 75, according to the Hong Kong Cancer Registry (HKCR). By 2020, new cancer cases in the city are estimated to rise to 31,000 a year.

Prostate cancer is the fifth most common cancer and the seventh most common cancer-related cause of death in Hong Kong, according to 2013 data from HKCR.

Besides the new test, Lau also announced that the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital has provided 20 additional beds for surgical emergencies, increased operating theater sessions by 10 per week and offered seven more endoscopy sessions in order to meet the rising need.

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