Breathing new hope into life

Local | Carain Yeung May 19, 2017
Despite the availability of modern treatment that can ensure some quality of life, a majority of Hong Kong people believe late-stage lung cancer patients have little hope because of limited treatment options, a survey shows.

Countering such a view, the Hong Kong Lung Cancer Study Group has launched a 12-month campaign to raise awareness and also provide support to patients and their caregivers. In line with that, the group surveyed 1,029 people between April 24 and May 2.

And 69 percent of respondents felt late-stage lung cancer patients have little hope. Most gave limited treatment options (68 percent) and the impact of treatment side effects on the quality of life (67 percent) as the main reasons.

Negativity is the top-ranked perceived psychological challenge faced by patients followed by anxiety, depression and anger.

Ms Wong, 53, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in late 2015.

"I used to cry all day at that time," the non-smoker said, adding the disease took away her mother, an uncle and an aunt.

She started receiving targeted therapy treatment in March last year, which she said allows her to live with the disease without much pain.

"If I don't mention it no one knows I'm a cancer patient," she said, adding that support from doctors, nurses and friends kept her in a positive frame of mind.

Lung cancer treatment options can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy, said oncologist Stephen Yau, a member of the study group.

The aim of medical care for early- stage lung cancer sufferers is to eliminate cancerous development, he said, while for late-stage patients the efforts are to ease symptoms and maintain a quality of life.

But Angus Leung Kwong-chuen, also an oncologist and a group member, said he has met sufferers who refused treatment they did not understand completely or instead sought "alternative" medicine, which could delay what they really needed. There is currently no effective screening for early-stage lung cancer, however, and council member Patricia Poon Che-mun suggested anyone troubled by coughing, sputum and shortness of breath for four weeks or longer should be consulting a doctor.

"It's not going to be just flu if symptoms persist for so long," she remarked.

Group president Au Siu-kie said the 12-month campaign "A Breath of Hope" that started yesterday includes events to raise awareness.

At the outset is a three-day picture- booth effort to raise funds for St James' Settlement to support cancer care.

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June 2017