Colorectal Cancer Screening Program Helps You Spot Cancer Early

The Department of Health (DH) announced in August 2018 that colorectal cancer ranked the most common cancer locally. In 2016, colorectal cancer resulted in 2 089 deaths, accounting for 14.7 per cent of all cancer deaths.

 

Causes and risk factors

Medical studies find that there are many factors that may raise the risk of growing colon polyps and can even cause colon cancer. For instance, emotional pressure can potentially lead to health problems. Long periods of sedentary behaviour and lack of physical activity are also strongly linked to obesity, digestive problems and bowel disorders. Eating barbecued and smoked foods, fatty foods, red meat, foods with high sodium content can result in colorectal cancer. Experts do agree that a balanced diet is a cornerstone of health, and typically discourage eating processed meat. Moreover, cigarette smoking and alcohol consuming are both important risk factors for bowel diseases. While people over the age of 50 are at higher risk to get colon polyps and cancer.

 

Screening and Prevention

Most colorectal cancers begin as a small and benign polyp. In the case of colorectal polyps, the doctor may remove them because some types of polyps can later develop into cancer. Removing the polyps can help prevent colorectal cancer from developing.

The Cancer Expert Working Group (CEWG), which was set up under the Cancer Coordinating Committee (CCC), recommends individuals aged 50 to 75 to discuss with their doctor and consider screening for colorectal cancer by one of the following methods:

  1. faecal occult blood test every one to two years; OR
  2. flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, OR
  3. colonoscopy every 10 years.

Individuals in high-risk families can consult their doctor and start screening for colorectal cancer at an earlier age and have screening repeated at shorter time intervals as recommended by their doctor.

 

The Department of Health announced the eligible persons being recruited in three phases. Phase 1: individuals aged between 61 and 75; Phase 2: Individuals aged between 56 and 75; Phase 3: Individuals aged between 50 and 75. The Second Phase has been launched. Hong Kong residents aged 56 to 75 years (born in the years 1943 to 1963) can join the Programme.

 

Eligible persons must first make an appointment with a primary care doctor (PCD) participating in the Programme. After enrolment in the Programme, the participant will receive a government subsidy to undergo the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). If the FIT result is positive, the participant will be referred to see a colonoscopy specialist who has enrolled in the Programme to receive colonoscopy examination subsidised by the Government in order to find out the cause of bleeding and to remove the colon polyps if there is any. However, no screening test is 100% accurate, so even if the FIT result is negative, we highly recommend the participant continues to watch out for symptoms of colorectal cancer, or schedule for a colonoscopy if there is any concern.

 

Colonoscopy commences with a flexible endoscope, by passing through the anus to the lower bowel to examine if there is any inflammation, polyp or tumour. When any suspicious lesion was found, biopsy will be performed. When polyp was found, polypectomy will usually be performed in the same session. Cancers can be detected during the colonoscopy. Biopsies taken during the procedure are sent to a laboratory for analysis to determine whether they are cancerous, precancerous or noncancerous. The result will facilitate an accurate and timely diagnosis.