The government said on Monday that it will launch the Colorectal Cancer Screening Programme (CRCSP) on August 6, a move that will enable citizens aged 50 to 75 come on board in phases for subsidized cancer prevention screening tests.
The announcement by the Department of Health (DH) means a three-year pilot program launched in September 2016 for colorectal cancer screening is being regularized.
Also, more people will benefit, as all those aged between 50 and 75 will be able to join the voluntary program. Under the pilot program, only those aged between 61 and 70 were eligible.
It is estimated that the number of people qualified to receive the subsidy for screening tests will increase to 2.55 million from 820,000, with 650 new colorectal cancer cases expected to be detected annually.
According to the DH, the CRCSP will be implemented in three phases. Starting on August 6, those aged 61 to 75, or those born in the years 1942 to 1957, will be eligible to join phase one of the CRCSP to undergo screening tests.
Phase two will cover those aged 56 to 75 while phase three will extend to those aged 50 to 75. Eligible participants will be defined by their years of birth. The details and commencement dates of phases two and three will be announced in due course.
Under the latest scheme, a HK$280 subsidy is provided when participants make an appointment with a doctor take initial tests at a private clinic. For those who need to undertake a colonoscopy, under the standard colonoscopy service package, the subsidy amount is HK$8,500 if polyp removal is necessary, while the amount is HK$7,800 if no polyp removal is necessary.
At a press conference on Monday, Dr. Wong Ka-hing, Controller of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP), said the government will set aside HK$940 million over the coming five years for the CRCSP.
Data show colorectal cancer has become the most common cancer in Hong Kong since 2013, with 5,036 new cases confirmed in 2015, accounting for 16.6 percent of all new cancer cases, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
A total of 2,089 people died of colorectal cancer in the city, representing one in seven cancer deaths, in 2016, putting the fatalities next only to lung cancer.
Dr. Regina Ching, who heads the Surveillance and Epidemiology branch of the CHP, said about 78,000 eligible people had participated in the pilot screening scheme over the past 22 months after its launch.
Of the participants, 8,724 of them, or around 13 percent, were found to have a positive result after taking the Faecal Immunochemical Test or fecal occult blood test and asked to further undergo a colonoscopy examination.
Meanwhile, 458 people were confirmed to have contracted colorectal cancer, with one in four of 319 analyzed cases already in late stage, according to Ching.
Dr. David Lam Tzit-yuen, a specialist in surgery and deputy chairman of The Hong Kong Medical Association, pointed out that although the pilot scheme can be called a success, the participation rate of less than 10 percent suggests that the public’s awareness on the issue is poor.
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