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Council warns on check-ups 2016.07.20
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HEALTH check-up packages offered by various organisations may not be effective in detecting “hidden diseases” or may produce false results, the Consumer Council (消費者委員會) has warned.

The watchdog surveyed 30 health check-up packages in 20 different organisations and found only some of them have their reports explained by doctors.

In the other cases medical laboratory technicians or nurses explained the reports.

The council sought advice from the Department of Health (衞生署), the Hong Kong College of Pathologists (香港病理學專科學院) and the Hong Kong Medical Association (香港醫學會) in categorising check-up items into five types - blood tests, check-ups using medical equipment, cancer marker tests, gynaecological checks and colorectal cancer screening.

Quoting expert opinion, the council said packages surveyed, which cost from HK$200 to HK$100,000, were usually “unconditional”, meaning check-ups were not performed based on medical assessments or clinical needs.

Instead, all-inclusive check-ups and laboratory tests were carried out in the hope of detecting a disease at an early stage.

“However, these may not serve the purpose,” said Michael Hui King-man (許敬文), chairman of the council’s publicity and community relations committee.

For example, using a chest X-ray as a screening tool for lung cancer could result in high false-negative rates due to poor sensitivity, Hui said.

“Some health check-up packages will add a tumour marker test as an optional item,” he added. But there is no tumour marker sufficiently sensitive and specific to be used on its own for cancer screening purposes.

People usually go to health check-up services through cold calls and online shopping websites, Hui pointed out.

But the council suggests people should consult their family doctors who can determine whether any tests are required based on assessments of relevant factors.

(This article is published on Sing Tao Daily on 22 July 2016)

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