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Monday, September 12, 2016, 22:34

Colorectal cancer screening program set to launch

By Willa Wu

HONG KONG - Senior citizens in the city will be in a position to better fend off colorectal cancer as the city's long-anticipated government-subsided Colorectal Cancer Screening Pilot Program will be launched on Sept 28.

The three-year program, organized by the Center for Health Protection (CHP), aims to provide screening tests for colorectal cancer for Hong Kong residents who were born between 1946 and 1955.

The center's controller Leung Ting-hung said the occurrence of colorectal cancer is common in individuals aged 50 or above, and the older one gets the higher the chance of having it. He also added that the screening could effectively reduce colorectal cancer mortality by 15 to 33 percent.

Colorectal cancer causes the second-largest number of deaths after lung cancer in Hong Kong, according to the center.

The program includes two tiers of screenings. Eligible people will first consult the primary care doctors for the first-tier screening in which participants are required to do the Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) – a test that can detects occult blood in defecate. The government will subsidize HK$280 at this stage.

Participants who are FIT negative are advised to do re-screening in two years, while those who are FIT positive will be recommended to do the second-tier screening – the colonoscopy to see if there are any polyps causing the blood. The government’s fixed-amount subsidy at this stage is HK7,800 for the colonoscopy only, and HK$8,500 for removing polyps or tissue.

Primary care doctors and colonoscopy specialists who are enrolled in the program are allowed to charge a co-payment on top of the government’s subsidy, noted Ching Cheuk-tuen, head of the Surveillance and Epidemiology Branch in the CHP.

Among the 218 enrolled primary care doctors, only 4 percent charge co-payment of no more than HK$300, and less than 40 percent of the 87 enrolled colonoscopy specialists ask for an additional charge. But they are not allowed to charge co-payment exceeding HK$1,000, Ching added.

The first phase of the program will focus on the 68 to 70 age group, i.e., people who were born from 1946 to 1949. Participants should first register with the Electronic Health Record Sharing System and look for their preferred primary care doctors through the designated website of the Department of Health. The website will be launched on Sept 26, two days before the program starts.

In total, 30 specimen collection points spread over 18 districts are established. Ching said patients’ FIT report will be sent back to primary care doctors in two to three days and the colonoscopy will be arranged for patients within eight weeks.

She also noted that the population of people aged 68 to 70 in Hong Kong is 190,000, and the center expects around 30 percent of them will join the program. And around 20,000 have successfully registered.

Ching also added that the program has no quota limitation, thus the participants do not need to rush for booking on the first day when the program launches.

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