The government is gathering data to determine if there is need for introduction of a universal breast cancer screening program for women in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said.
Speaking at an event Thursday, which marked International Women’s Day, Lam noted that breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in Hong Kong, and that it ranks No. 3 among cancers causing deaths in the female population locally.
Citing official figures, the chief executive said the number of new breast cancer cases in the city in 2015 was about 3,900. In 2016, more than 700 women died from the disease, up from 637 the previous year, she said.
As the government is taking the issue seriously, it has begun working with the medical sector to conduct more research and collect additional data in order to determine whether it is necessary to implement a population-based mammography screening program, Lam said.
If such program is rolled out, it will aim to detect breast cancer in asymptomatic women or those at average risk.
Lam made the comments as he attended the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation’s Jockey Club Breast Health Centre in Ngau Chi Wan in Wong Tai Sin district, the second of its kind in the city following the launch of a facility earlier in North Point, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
In 2013 Hong Kong’s then health secretary, Dr. Ko Wing-man, had remarked that population-based breast cancer screening by mammography is a somewhat controversial topic.
In a written reply to a question from a lawmaker, Ko told the Legislative Council that the matter needs to be approached carefully as there were no studies indicating that the screening programs can effectively reduce the mortality rate of breast cancer.
There is no published data that reflects the effectiveness or cost-effectiveness of the programs, he said.
But Lam’s remarks Thursday suggest that the government is now more open to the idea of introducing such a program.
As for the facility that was opened yesterday, the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation said the new center will run a three-year holistic “Jockey Club Breast Care for You Programme”.
The program, among other things, will allow 5,000 citizens with low income or in financial distress to receive free mammography screening and assessment services.
In related news, the Women Affairs Committee of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, called on the government to take heed of ten visions laid out by women at an event on Thursday to mark the International Women’s Day, with one of them being free universal breast cancer screening.
Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, who attended the event, said the government will pay attention to the international trend before launching appropriate policies regarding Hong Kong women’s health.
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