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Cancer: So far and yet so near

The fact that the aging population of Hong Kong is ever increasing an indisputable. "Staying Healthy" has become a big subject of discussion among old folks. Yet, topics about aging, illness and death are still seen as taboos. As for the deadly illness like cancer, euphemisms are often used, like “The big C”, “C bomb” and ”CA”.

As my work primarily deals with patients.  I encounter a great variety of illness and even death on a daily basis. All these years, I have diagnosed numerous cancer-related cases. They become a part of my daily life. But, when seeing my colleagues or friends are suffering from cancer, my heart sinks. Recently, a close friend in his middle age died suddenly because of pancreatic cancer, leaving behind a spouse and three young children. And, his wife is suffering a chronical illness. Why them?

Cancer is not far from us. Every year, there are more than 30,000 new cancer cases in Hong Kong, with there is slightly more cases among men. The total number is expected to go up every year. The most common malignant tumours are colorectal cancer, lung cancer, female breast cancer and male prostatic carcinoma. Among the killers, liver cancer remains top on the list. Most cancers are discovered after the age of 65. Yet surprisingly, the overall cancer mortality rate in major metropolitan cities around the world has a downward trend. 

What is the reason? When I read the latest medical literatures, I find the answer. Our medical and scientific frontiers have a new understanding of the causes and pathology of many cancers. With our breakthrough in biomedical technology, there are new ways to detect and treat cancer. Gene sequencing. Molecular fingerprinting. Target therapy. Immunotherapy. CAR-T. The world of cancer treatment is strewn with many “magic words”,. All these new breakthroughs are promising and encouraging. The patient's treatment can be more diverse, more tailored, more personal and more effective. No wonder that many cases have changed from incurable diseases in the past to "chronic illnesses" or even "controllable diseases" nowadays.

On my DICOM viewing workstation, there are the images of a PET scan of a returning patient.  Having put on the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) targeting for advanced NSCLC, his lung cancer was drastically improved. 
 

In the face of life and death, cancer may be a foe or a friend. Go strive to gain insight; seek the treasure of life; seize the day, only then will you find contentment in life!

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