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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Hong Kong is falling behind cervical cancer screening targets, NGO warns

Hong Kong is falling behind cervical cancer screening targets, NGO warns

Family Planning Association of Hong Kong says number of tests carried out at its centres has dropped over past five years.
Hong Kong has continued to fall behind the cervical cancer screening targets of the World Health Organization, a local NGO has warned, as it urges women to get regular check-ups.

The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong on Tuesday said the number of Pap tests performed at its centres had dropped over the past five years, from about 36,184 in 2018 to 31,954 in 2022.

“In Hong Kong, women’s participation in cervical screening is unsatisfactory,” said Dr Grace Wong Ching-yin, a senior doctor at the association.

Women between the ages of 25 and 64 who have ever had sex are advised to get regular cervical screenings. But according to the Department of Health’s most recent Population Health Survey in 2020-2022, only 52.1 per cent had ever been tested.

The World Health Organization recommends that jurisdictions aim for a testing rate of 70 per cent among women.

The incidence rate target for the disease set by the WHO is four per 100,000 women. According to the latest data from the Centre for Health Protection, Hong Kong’s incidence rate was 8.5 per 100,000 in 2020.

After a rapid decline in the cervical cancer incidence rate between the 1980s and the 2000s, the figure increased by 1.2 per cent annually over the past 10 years.

Cervical cancer was the seventh most common cancer among women in Hong Kong in 2020, and led to 178 deaths in 2021, according to the Centre for Health Protection.

The NGO said the new co-testing service it launched earlier this month could help reduce the disease rate in the city.

“We hope that the introduction of more sensitive screening tests like co-testing can improve the detection rate of precancerous lesions and hopefully reach the targeted levels [set by the] WHO,” Wong said.

Co-testing is a cervical cancer screening method that allows for one collected sample to be used for both a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) DNA test and a liquid-based cervical cytology, commonly known as a Pap test.

More than 95 per cent of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV infection, according to the WHO.

The association said co-testing could improve detection rates, minimise false positives and also reduce the frequency of screening from every three years to five years.

“The advantage of co-testing is the dual assurance it provides women,” Wong said, adding it could help “minimises unnecessary anxiety and pain associated with over-diagnosis and over-treatment”.

A 2020 study by the University of Hong Kong found that co-testing could help in the early detection of pre-invasive lesions.

In 2021, the Centre for Health Protection began recommending doctors use co-testing as an alternative to traditional cytological screening.

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