About 80 percent of liver cancer patients in China would like to see a wider range of treatments included in the reimbursement lists of basic medical insurance programs, according to a survey of 300 family members of liver cancer patients nationwide.
More than half of those surveyed said the patients are most in need of drugs that can effectively relieve pain and prolong life, according to the online survey, which was conducted by Life Times, a health newspaper in Beijing, in February and March.
The results were published last month.
Most of the patients covered by the survey were age 50 or older, and 55 percent said they were already in the late or terminal stages of liver cancer when they were diagnosed.
More than half of the patients said they only sought medical advice after experiencing a period of physical discomfort, and only 10 percent were diagnosed during regular physical checkups.
About 3 percent had been misdiagnosed once.
Nearly 70 percent said they did not pay enough attention to warning signs and symptoms during the early stages of the disease.
Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said their lives had been disrupted by having a family member with liver cancer, and they were unable to obtain adequate rest.
More than 40 percent of the relatives spent all of their time after work caring for the patient.
More than 51 percent said they had experienced heavy financial pressure as a result of high treatment costs, while just 4.7 percent said they had experienced very little pressure.
Wu Jianxiong, director of the hepatobiliary department at the Cancer Hospital of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, said China has one of the highest incidences of liver cancer in the world, accounting for more than half of all new cases globally every year.
A major reason for the increased incidence of the disease in China is the high number of patients with hepatitis B and C, which are both prone to develop into cancer.
Liver cancer is difficult to detect in the early stages, which results in many patients missing the opportunity for effective treatment, he said.
Wu suggested that people at higher risk, such as those with hepatitis B and other liver conditions, should have regular checkups.
He added that good dietary habits and a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent the disease from developing.