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Type and Age Should be Specified In Cancer Examinations

Posted April. 25, 2004 22:15,   


Compared with America, Canada and Japan, Korea’s domestic cancer examination cycle is shorter than them. That means we examine for cancer too often.

Kim Young-sik, a family medicine professor at Asan Medical Center, the medical school of Ulsan University, declared this in his thesis “Lifetime Health Care,” which was presented at the spring seminar of the Diagnosis and Examination Academy of Korea. According to this thesis, this phenomenon was distinctive for women’s cancer, such as breast cancer and uterine cancer.

According to the investigation of Dong-A Ilbo, many hospitals are recommending people to examine for breast cancer every six months and uterine cancer every year.

According to Kim, the cancer examination cycle is decided after the point when the frequency is heightened. In Korea, where excessive drinking is common and the frequency of drinking is high, for example, cancer of the stomach and liver cancer are specified as the five cancers, and it is recommended that people in their thirties or forties be examined regularly. In America, Canada and Japan, where heavy drinking is less common than in Korea, however, there is not even any cycle of these cancers.

Frequent examinations for cancer require more expenditure for health care. That is, costly cancer examinations the effects of which have not been certified yet, are becoming popular. For example, an examination machine costing millions of won, such as a PET, is misinformed as “being able to catch every cancer.”

Frequent cancer examinations amplify anxiousness and disinterest regarding health. Some people are concerned after missing one examination, “Did I miss the proper period of examination?” In cases where one is examined often and gets a result of “no cancer” every time, people might become overconfident about their health after mid-life and avoid examinations.

--When should people be examined

Most hospitals, including the National Cancer Center, officially recommend a “Standard Suggestion of Examination” from the government. However, conversion of this cannot be disregarded. The Family Medicine Academy of Korea (FMAK) suggests that cancer examinations should be more specific according to age.

In cases of cancer of the stomach, the government is recommending both men and women after their forties be examined every two years. FMAK, however, recommends women to examine every two years starting in their fifties.

The same holds for examinations for liver cancer. FMAK recommends men and women be examined after their forties and fifties, which are each 10 years later than government’s recommendation.

In the case of breast cancer, FMAK recommends people defer current examinations from two years to three years in light of the fact that the frequency gets lower after one’s fifties. In the case of uterine cancer, it also recommends an examination every three years, like developed countries.

Until now, the system of cancer examination cycle has not been completely established. Therefore, the best way is to follow an examination cycle that is decided according to clinical experiences.

In case certain types of cancers do not have specific examination cycles, such as lung cancer, it is good to be examined in advance, according to the symptoms. In cases of heredity, however, it is desirable to decide a proper examination date after consulting with a doctor.

Sang Hoon Kim corekim@donga.com