Health tips

Q: What are the causes of cancer?

- For many years, cancer has been the number one killer disease in Hong Kong. Cancer happens when a gene becomes damaged and the cell begins to grow out of control.

- Although the exact causes of most types of cancer are yet to be elucidated, evidence shows that our lifestyles such as smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity and alcohol abuse are the most important factors associated with cancer. Genetic inheritance plays only a minor part.

Q: How can cancer be diagnosed?

- Asked by doctor about medical records and perform a health check-up

- Perform tests such as blood tests and stool and urine tests

- Perform radiological diagnosis such as X-ray pictures of the chest, barium meal, barium enema, angiography, etc.

- Perform endoscopy such as gastroscopy, cystoscopy, proctoscopy, colonoscopy, etc.

- Obtain the affected tissue for viable cell test

- Further testing methods include CT scan, ultrasound scan or isotope scan

Q: How can cancer be prevented?

- Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent cancer, including keeping a healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake. All these help you cut your risk of developing cancer. You should make early detection and follow the cancer screening guidelines if you have a family history of cancer.

Q: What is coronary heart disease?

- There are many types of heart disease, including congenital heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, heart valve heart disease, etc. Among them, coronary heart disease is the most common.

- The coronary arteries serve to supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. When the arteries become narrow and stiff because of fatty plaques, this will affect the circulation to the heart and results in the damage of the heart muscle.

Q: What are the causes of coronary heart disease?

- A number of risk factors, individually or in combination, can lead to coronary heart disease, including High fat diet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, diabetes mellitus, stress and a family history of coronary heart disease.

Q: How can coronary heart disease be prevented?

- To lower the risk of developing coronary heart disease, you should have a healthy diet, take suitable exercise based on your physical condition, avoid smoking, get adequate rest and check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels regularly.

- You can also consult the doctor and professional advice for relevant tests, such as blood tests, resting electrocardiography or treadmill stress test, echocardiography and coronary angiogram.

Seasonal influenza vaccination

Q: What is seasonal influenza vaccination?

- Seasonal influenza vaccination is one of the effective means to prevent seasonal influenza and its complications. It can also reduce influenza related hospitalisation and death.

- As influenza vaccines are safe and effective and severe cases can occur even in healthy persons, all members of the public aged 6 months or above, except those with known contraindications, should receive seasonal influenza vaccine for personal protection.

Q: Is it necessary to receive seasonal influenza vaccination every year?

- As the circulating seasonal influenza strains may change from time to time, the seasonal influenza vaccine composition is updated every year in accordance with the circulating strains to enhance protection. Also, the immunity built up in a vaccinated person in the prior season will decrease over time and may become too low to provide protection in next season. Therefore, getting vaccinated against seasonal influenza every year is the most effective protection.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine

Q: What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name of a group of viruses that includes more than 150 types. Around 40 of these viruses infect the genital area of men and women. HPV can cause premalignant changes and malignant cancers of cervix, vagina, vulva and anus.

Q: Who are suitable to get HPV vaccination?

- HPV vaccine is a prophylactic vaccine to prevent cervical cancer as well as other HPV-related cancers or diseases.

- HPV vaccines work best for women who have never been exposed to HPV infection. Therefore, they should work best in women who have not started sexual activities. In women who have had sexual activities, the effectiveness varies. You should consult the doctor for further information.

Pneumococcal vaccine

Q: What is pneumococcus?

- Pneumococci are common in the nose and throat of healthy people, among which children are more common. Sometimes these bacteria can cause infections and thus various diseases, including middle ear infections and pneumonia. They can also lead to invasive pneumococcal diseases (IPD), such as invading the meninges (causing meningitis) and blood (causing bacteremia and sepsis), leading to severe or even life-threatening diseases.

Q: Who should get pneumococcal vaccines?

- Children under 2 years of age should receive pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) under the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme (HKCIP). The standard regimen includes a primary series of 3 doses at 2, 4 and 6 months and a booster dose at 12-15 months.

- High-risk individuals aged 2 years or above should receive a single dose of 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), followed by a single dose of 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (23vPPV) 1 year later. For those who have already received 23vPPV, a single dose of PCV13 should be administered 1 year after previous 23vPPV vaccination. For those who have already received PCV13, a single dose of 23vPPV should be administered 1 year after previous PCV13.

- Elderly aged 65 and above without high-risk conditions should receive either a single dose of PCV13 or a single dose of 23vPPV.

- Different factors such as age and clinical condition may affect the risk of pneumococcal disease. Patients with high-risk conditions should discuss with their attending doctors on the most appropriate vaccination regimen.

Q: What is the impact of overweight and obesity?

- Obesity increases the risk for a number of chronic diseases, such as hypertension, heart diseases, hypercholesterolaemia, diabetes mellitus, cerebrovascular disease, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea and some types of cancer (breast, prostate, colorectal and endometrial).

- Carrying extra weight makes your body work harder, and can interfere with how your body works internally. You are more likely to have various health problems as well.

Q: How can overweight or obesity be improved?

- Environment and habits are the biggest influence on the risk of becoming overweight or obese. Therefore, a balanced diet and regular physical activity can help achieve and maintain an ideal body weight.

- If you are obese or overweight and have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, it is wise to have a general check-up and consult the doctor for professional advice.

Maintain

- personal hygiene

- a routine life

- a cheerful mood

Have

- regular exercise

- a healthy diet

- regular health check-ups

Say ‘no’ to

- smoking, alcoholic drinks and drugs

- overeating

- negative emotions

The importance of health check-ups

- Some diseases, such as diabetes, liver cancer, hepatitis and heart disease, can be detected early through regular health check-ups and thus appropriate treatment can be carried out in the early stage of the disease.

The importance of vaccination

- Vaccination is effective in preventing many diseases and reducing the risk of complications caused by diseases. For example, herpes zoster vaccination can reduce the chance of zoster (shingles) and prevent the neuropathic pain it causes; human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination (also known as cervical cancer vaccination) can prevent cervical cancer and related gynecological diseases.

Precautions for child vaccination

- After vaccination, children may have fever, gastrointestinal discomfort, or redness and swelling at the injection site. Parents do not need to worry too much as long as their children have been taken care after vaccination. If abnormal conditions occur, it is recommended to seek medical advice or professional assistance.