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I.What is cancer?

  1. Cancer is the unlimited growth of abnormal cells, which can spread to different parts of the body. It can affect the normal function of different organs and may lead to death. Cancer is also called ‘Malignant Tumor’.
  2. According to Hong Kong’s cancer statistics, the five most commonly diagnosed cancers in 2019 were lung cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and liver cancer.
  3. Cancers diagnosed at the early stage can have higher treatment success. And an effective way of cancer prevention is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

II. Risk factors for cancer :

  1. Smoking:Research shows that chronic and passive smokers not only have higher risk of developing lung cancer, but also other cancers like cancer of lip, oral cavity, tongue, larynx cancer, oesophagus and bladder
  2. Unhealthy eating habit:Frequent intake of preserved food, barbecued food or high fat but low fibre diet is associated with increased chance of stomach cancer and colorectal cancer.
  3. Environmental pollution:Exhaust from factory and vehicles, prolonged contact with chemicals such as asbestos can increase the chance of lung cancer. In addition, consumption of industrial pollutant. e.g. chemically polluted food and water may also lead to cancer.
  4. Lack of physical activity:Lack of physical activity can increase the chance of different cancers including colorectal cancer and breast cancer.
  5. Alcohol abuse:Alcohol is a Group 1 carcinogen classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. The more alcohol consumed and cumulated over time, the higher the chance of suffering from a wide range of long term illnesses such as cancers of oral, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and female breasts.
  6. Age:Over 60% of cancers occur in the elderly persons aged sixty or above.
  7. Sun exposure:Frequent over exposure to sunlight may cause skin cancer.
  8. Chronic infection by some cancer-causing viruses:Chronic hepatitis B virus infection is a major cause of liver cancer in Hong Kong. Human papillomavirus infection can cause premalignant changes and malignant cancers of cervix, vagina, vulva and anus.

III. Warning symptoms of cancer

The symptoms of cancer depend on the organ affected. In general, they are not obvious & non-specific at early stage. Thus elderly persons should be alert to any change in their health conditions, e.g. unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, etc., and seek early treatment. Early treatment increases the chance of cure.

  1. Abnormal bleeding:e.g. blood in sputum, blood in urine or stool, nasal bleeding and vaginal bleeding after menopause.
  2. Abnormal discharge:e.g. from nipple or vagina.
  3. Change in bowel and voiding habits, e.g. change in frequency.
  4. Prolonged coughing or hoarseness of voice.
  5. Painless lump.
  6. Indigestion or swallowing difficulties.
  7. Hearing loss, ringing in the ear (especially if only one ear is affected).
  8. Obvious change of wart or mole (enlarged, change in color, or spontaneous bleeding).
  9. Unexplained weight loss.

Notes: The warning signs & symptoms listed above are not necessarily due to cancer as they may be symptoms of other diseases.

IV. Tips for cancer prevention

  1. Quit smoking and avoid passive smoking
    • After 10 years of quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer reduces to half of that among smokers.
    • Smokers can contact the Integrated Smoking Cessation Hotline of the Department of Health for information on smoking cessation.
  2. Maintain a well balanced diet
    • Increase intake of high fiber diet such as breakfast cereals, whole wheat bread and different kinds of green vegetables and fruits.
    • Avoid over intake of animal fat, preserved, smoked, over-cooked or stale foods and those foods which had already expired.
  3. Be physically active and maintain a healthy body weight and waist circumference
    • All healthy adults and elderly persons without any contraindication to physical activity should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or at least 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
    • Men should keep their waist circumference below 90 cm and women should keep theirs below 80 cm.
  4. Limit alcohol intake
  5. Appropriate screening test and be alert to any change in health condition.
    • Women should have routine Pap Smear done for the prevention of cervical cancer and detection of precancerous changes.
    • Individuals aged 50 to 75 to discuss with their doctor and consider screening for colorectal cancer.
    • Every woman should be breast aware and familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts at all time. Be aware of any unusual changes of their breast. If women notice unusual changes in the breast, they should see a doctor as soon as possible. For those with risk factors, they should seek advice from doctors on breast screening.
    • Hepatitis B carrier should follow doctor’s advice on regular check of alpha fetoprotein and ultrasound of liver.
    • In case of suspicion or warning symptoms, seek medical advice as soon as possible.
  6. Avoid over exposure to sunlight (ultra violet light)
    • Avoid persistent exposure to sunlight during outdoor activities by wearing caps, and long-sleeved clothing, and applying sun screen (with SPF 15 or above).

V. Community Resources

Community name and site name
Community telephone and related websites
1. The Hong Kong Anti-cancer Society 3921 3821
2. Cancer Patient Resource Centres
- Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital 2595 4165
- Prince of Wales Hospital 3505 4030
- Princess Margaret Hospital 2990 2498
- Queen Elizabeth Hospital 3506 5393
- Queen Mary Hospital 2255 3900
- Tuen Mun Hospital 2468 5045
- United Christian Hospital 3949 3756
3. Integrated Smoking Cessation Hotline of the Department of Health 1833 183
4. HA “Quitline” (Smoking Counseling and Cessation Hotline) 2300 7272
5. Hong Kong Cancer Fund Helpline 3656 0800
6. Website
- Anti-cancer Society
- Cervical Screening Programme, Department of Health
- Colorectal Cancer Screening Programme, Department of Health
- Hong Kong Cancer Fund
- Hospital Authority
- Tobacco and Alcohol Control Office, Department of Health