Body checks at Every Age | What You Should Know About Your Options in Hong Kong

Body checks help you identify problems before they start. Checking in with a doctor to assess your health means early, often asymptomatic, signs of disease can be caught early. Most non-communicable diseases, the most common being cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, are treatable, preventable and much less fatal in their early stages. While there is currently a debate amongst physicians as to how often physical examinations should be provided in public health systems, several countries recommend visiting your physician on an annual basis.
 
 

What are my body check options in Hong Kong?

Unlike a lot of comparable countries, the Hong Kong public health system does not have a set of recommendations for when various populations should undergo screening tests. Hong Kongers must access body checks in private clinic settings, which are un-regulated and not standardized. This means that packages, costs and user experience vary greatly depending on the provider.
 
 

What can I expect from my body check?

Every body check should begin with a discussion about your family and personal health histories. It’s crucial to be as informed about your family’s health history and as honest as possible with your physician about any habits that may affect your health so they can paint as accurate a picture as possible.
 
Be aware that some screening tests have the possibility of returning a false-positive. It’s important to understand that there are risks involved with screening tests as well. Please consult your physician for any medical advice.
 
 

What should be included in your next body check?

In the absence of official government recommendations in Hong Kong, we have based guidelines on collected information from comparable countries’ public health systems and expert opinions. With the help of Dr. Kevin Lau 劉仲恒醫生, we have put together a list of particular items that should be included in your next body scan. See our references and methodology at the end of this article.
 
 

(1) FROM 18 YEARS OLD

Genetic screening – optional

Genetic screening analyses your DNA and informs you which non-communicable diseases you are more susceptible to. This does not necessarily mean you will develop this disease but rather which illnesses you are at higher risk of developing. While some people may find this a bit nerve-wracking, it does provide insight into what type of preventative measures you can take to avoid becoming ill.
 
Genetic screening is available in private clinics across Hong Kong for adults over 18 years old. When considering genetic screening, it’s important to investigate which lab the clinic of your choice uses as the quality varies.
 

Skin cancer[i]

Population/age: Adults; people at high risk – close relative or history of skin cancer
Recommended test: Self-skin examination and/or whole-body MRI
Frequency: Your physician can advise how often, likely every 6 months if anything is abnormal
 

Obesity[ii]

Population/age: Aged 18+
Recommended test: BMI and waist circumference measurement
Frequency: Every 2 years, if normal; every 12 months if increased risk of obesity; every 6 months if currently obese or overweight
 

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) (e.g. heart attack and stroke)[iii]

Population/age: Aged 18 to 50
Recommended test: Blood pressure measurement
Frequency: Every 2 years
 

Cervical cancer[iv][v][vi]

Population/age: Pap smear – women aged 20-70, starting two years after becoming sexually active; Cervical Cancer Test – women aged 25+
Recommended test: Pap smear or Cervical Cancer Test (tests only for HPV)
Frequency: Pap smear – Every 2 years if normal, more frequently with an abnormal result. The Cervical Cancer Test is recommended every 5 years, more frequently with an abnormal result.
 

Ovarian cancer[vii]

Population/age: Women with a family history of ovarian cancer
Recommended test: Serum CA125 measurement, transvaginal ultrasound
Frequency: As per your physician’s recommendation
 

Vision[viii]

Population/age: Adults with no risk factors for glaucoma
Recommended test: Eye examination
Frequency: Every 2-3 years or as per your physician’s recommendation
 
 

(2) FROM 25 YEARS OLD

Uterine cancer[ix]

Population/age: Women aged 25-64 who have had sexual contact
Recommended test: Cervical Pap Smear
Frequency: Every 3-5 years
 
 

(3) FROM 30 YEARS OLD

Nasopharyngeal cancer[x]

Population/age: Individuals aged 30-70 with a family history of nasopharyngeal cancer
Recommended test: EBV serology blood test, nasopharyngoscopy
Frequency: Every 12 month
 
 

(4) FROM 40 YEARS OLD

Type 2 Diabetes[xi]

Population/age: Beginning at age 40
Recommended test: Diabetes risk assessment tool (questionnaire, varies by country)
Frequency: Every 3 years
 
Population/age: People at high risk (impaired glucose testing or impaired fasting glucose)
Recommended test: Fasting blood sugar levels
Frequency: Every 12 months
 
Population/age: People at high risk (aged 45+ with obesity and/or high blood pressure; history of CVD issues; taking antipsychotic drugs)
Recommended test: Fasting blood sugar levels
Frequency: Every 3 years
 

Breast cancer[xii]

Population/age: Women aged 40 to 74
Recommended test: Mammogram
Frequency: Every 1 year
 
 

(5) FROM 45 YEARS OLD

Cardiovascular disease (CVD)[xiii]

Population/age: People at low risk of CVD
Recommended test: CT coronary calcium/ fluoroscopy heart/ ultrasound echocardiography transthoracic
Frequency: Every 2 years
 
Population/age: People at intermediate risk of CVD
Recommended test: CT coronary calcium
Frequency: Every 12 months
 
Population/age: People at high risk of CVD
Recommended test: MRI heart with stress, without, and with IV contrast/US echocardiography transthoracic stress/ Tc-99m SPECT MPI rest and stress
Frequency: Regular checks as per your physician
 
 

(6) FROM 50 YEARS OLD

Colorectal cancers[xiv]

Population/age: Aged 50+
Recommended test: Colonoscopy
Frequency: Every 10 years
 
Population/age: People at increased risk of colorectal cancers; age depends on family history
Recommended test: Colonoscopy
Frequency: Every 5 years
 
 

(7) FROM 55 YEARS OLD

Lung cancer[xv]

Population/age: Adults 55-80 with a history of smoking > 30 packs per year
Recommended test: Low dose computed tomography
Frequency: Every 12 months
 
 

(8) FROM 65 YEARS OLD

Abdominal aortic aneurysm[xvi][xvii]

Population/age: Men aged 65+; long-term smokers; family history
Recommended test: Ultrasound
Frequency: One time
 

Visual and hearing impairment[xviii]

Population/age: Aged 65+
Recommended test: Eye and hearing test
Frequency: Every 12 months
 

Osteoporosis[xix]

Population/age: Women aged 65+
Recommended test: Various (ultrasound, sonography)
Frequency: As per physician
 
 
It’s important to note that if you are experiencing new and unexplained symptoms, there is no need to wait for a body check – it is highly recommended to visit your physician.
 
 
METHODOLOGY
We have reviewed sources from The US Preventative Services Task Force; The American Cancer Society; the US-based National Institute of Health, the Australian, Canadian, UK, and New Zealand Department of Healths’ respective screening programs. Some of the recommendations in these sources are based on cost-effective population-level screening, some are based on the best age for individuals to begin looking for these diseases. In order to reflect the most comprehensive individual-level recommendations, the advice provided here is based on the lowest age provided by any of our sources.
 
For our cancer recommendations, we reviewed the top ten cancers in Hong Kong, based on incidence. We have included those cancers that had published screening recommendations on the US Preventative Services Task Force website.
 
Cancers which don’t have screening recommendations but that are in the Hong Kong top 10 cancers (by incidence) are:
  • Prostate cancer – guidelines for prostate cancer are currently being reviewed.
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – no recommended test
  • Liver cancer – only recommended for those who have risk factors, symptoms or as recommended by your physician. More information can be found here.
  
Dr Kevin Lau 劉仲恒醫生 graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Hong Kong and is currently the Medical Director at Trinity Medical Imaging Centre in Central. He is qualified as a Fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists (United Kingdom), The Hong Kong College of Radiologists and The Hong Kong Academy of Medicine. He obtained his Master in Public Health & Master in Public Administration from the University of Hong Kong.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and not sponsored. It is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.
 
 

[i] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection/skin-exams.html

[ii] https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/obesity-in-adults-screening-and-management

[iii] https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/high-blood-pressure-in-adults-screening

[iv] http://www.health.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/cervical-screening-1

[v] https://www.timetoscreen.nz/cervical-screening/

[vi] https://canadiantaskforce.ca/guidelines/published-guidelines/cervical-cancer/

[vii] https://www.hkacs.org.hk/en/screening_guideline.php

[viii] https://opto.ca/health-library/frequency-of-eye-examinations

[ix] https://www.healthline.com/health/pap-smear#pap-smear-frequency

[x] https://www.hkacs.org.hk/en/screening_guideline.php

[xi] https://www.racgp.org.au/your-practice/guidelines/diabetes/3-screening,-risk-assessment,-case-finding-and-diagnosis/31-identifying-risk-of-diabetes-in-asymptomatic-patients/

[xii] http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/about-breast-screening

[xiii] https://acsearch.acr.org/docs/3082570/Narrative/

[xiv] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/acs-recommendations.html

[xv] https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/lung-cancer-screening

[xvi] https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/abdominal-aortic-aneurysm-screening

[xvii] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/abdominal-aortic-aneurysm-screening/

[xviii] https://www.racgp.org.au/your-practice/guidelines/redbook/5-preventive-activities-in-older-age/54-visual-and-hearing-impairment/

[xix] https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/osteoporosis-screening