Cancer, the leading health problem of FDWs in Hong Kong

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According to Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) welfare officer in Hong Kong, Ms. Virsie Dayao-Tamayao, they received a total of 114 cases of domestic workers diagnosed with cancer from January to November this year. Most of those who sought assistance are suffering from breast cancer. But there are also other types of cancer that the FDWs reported in minimal numbers, WefOff Tamayao added, such as lung cancer, cervical, blood, brain, etc.

Janice Venecia, the leader of The Filipino Migrant Cancer Support Society (FILMCASS) founded in 2012, an organization composed of cancer survivors, cancer patients, and supporters, said that they have 10 new members of domestic workers with cancer this year.  Seven are breast cancer patients, two were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and one with cancer of the blood. Most of their members are undergoing chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Those with breast cancer underwent mastectomy (surgery to remove a breast).

A FILMCASS member, Roselyn Milano, 53 years old, who arrived in Hong Kong in 2012 was diagnosed with breast cancer stage 3 in her 7th year since she started to work as a domestic worker. From 2019, she underwent seven series of chemotherapy treatments, a mastectomy (her right breast), and 25 times radiation treatments after her surgery. She said that the next check-up would be at the end of November and on Jan. 22. Milano is still working with her employer doing all the domestic chores assigned to her since she was diagnosed with cancer and during the time of medical check-ups and treatments.


Marites Palma, the leader of  Social Justice for Migrant Workers, a private group in social media (Facebook) with 22,000 members, said that they have 20 members with cancer. Some of them have already left Hong Kong, the remaining members are continuously working and having treatment at the hospital.

The Hong Kong Cancer Registry (HKCaR), a population-based cancer registry responsible for collecting the basic demographic data, information of the cancer site, and tumor histology of patients diagnosed with cancer in public and private medical institutions in Hong Kong reported this year (October 2021) of data of cancer cases for 2019.

The five most commonly diagnosed cancers in 2019 were lung cancer (15.9%), colorectal cancer (15.8%), breast cancer (13.7%), prostate cancer (7.2%), and liver cancer (5.3%), accounting for nearly 58% of new cancer cases diagnosed in Hong Kong. Compared with the preceding year, lung cancer superseded colorectal cancer to reclaim the top spot since 2012. Lung cancer increased by 6.2% to 5,575 cases while colorectal cancer decreased by 1.4% to 5,556 cases. 2.4 In 2019, the inclination of the number of new cancer cases was mainly attributed to the growing numbers of prostate cancer in men, breast cancer in women, as well as lung cancer in both genders.

For females, the five leading cancers were cancers of the breast (27.4%), colorectum (13.3%), lung (12.4%), corpus uteri (6.9%), and thyroid (4.7%), accounting for around 65% of new cancer cases in women. 2.7 The number of newly diagnosed invasive breast cancer cases in women increased by 3.1% to 4,761 in 2019. In addition, 737 new cases of in-situ breast cancer (or known as stage 0 breast cancer) were also diagnosed, up 10% from the previous year.

Other than cancer, other health issues reported to OWWA are 63 cases of stroke, 35 cases of mental health problems; other health problems are Lupus, thyroid-related problems, TB, hypertension, which were also reported ailments of domestic workers.

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