Cancer treatment in China (1)

Cancer Treatment in China

The increasing prevalence of cancer in China is a significant public health issue, despite the notable advancements in the country’s cancer death and survival rates. This review provides an overview of the current state and future prospects of cancer care and research in China. Cancer treatment in China has undergone a paradigm shift, with a huge number of biotech companies running massive clinical trials on new drugs and therapies.

We explore national screening programs and tactics for cancer diagnosis, as well as the changing field of cancer care, with a focus on the implementation of multidisciplinary, complete therapy and precision oncology.

Cancer statistics in China 2024

Recent epidemiological data indicates that China experiences an annual incidence of about 2.2 million new cancer cases, with 1.4 million instances in males and 0.8 million cases in women. Out of these cases, around 1.6 million result in mortality. In the past two decades, there has been a 30% increase in the mortality rate associated with cancer, accounting for 25-35% of all deaths. Between 2000 and 2005, there was a 14.6% increase in the overall number of new cases. The most prevalent sites for these instances in men were the lung, liver, and stomach, while in women, they were the breast, lung, and stomach. This increase can mostly be attributed to population growth and aging. Furthermore, the escalating prevalence of lung cancer in both males and females, as well as breast cancer in females, indicates a significant surge in the number of cases at these specific locations. Specifically, there is projected to be a 27% increase in lung cancer cases among men and a 38% increase in lung and breast cancer cases among women. Cancer has emerged as the leading cause of mortality in China.

By the conclusion of 2006, the number of individuals aged 65 or over in China amounted to 104.2 million, accounting for 7.9% of the total population. Currently, China’s population includes more than 150 million individuals who are over the age of 60, accounting for 20% of the global population in that age group. China has emerged as one of the nations seeing a significant increase in the proportion of elderly citizens, exhibiting the most rapid growth and boasting the largest aging population globally. This factor is a significant contributor to the increasing prevalence of cancer in China.

The primary causes of death in urban populations include cancer, cerebral vascular accidents, cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, injuries and poisonings, gastrointestinal disorders, endocrinological and metabolic disorders, urological disorders, and psychiatric disorders. While the total incidence of cancer has increased in the past five decades, this pattern is not consistent across all forms of cancer. The prevalence of certain types of cancer, including gastric, cervical, penile, oesophageal, and nasopharyngeal cancers, has decreased to varying extents. However, there has been a large increase in the rates of lung, breast, colon, and prostate cancer. The observed rise in cancer rates is particularly pronounced in highly developed coastal cities, likely attributable to alterations in lifestyle and dietary habits.

Top 5 cancer types in China and their reasons

The most prevalent malignancies in China include lung, liver, gastric, esophageal, and colorectal cancers. The annual death rate of lung cancer has been steadily rising. For instance, in Beijing, lung cancer fatalities account for 25% of all cancer-related deaths. Based on the findings of the Initiative of Promoting Healthy Living in China (Cancer 2006), it is projected that the number of deaths caused by lung cancer in China could surpass one million by the year 2025.

The main reasons for such a high lung cancer mortality rate in China are the following:

  • Lack of awareness of lung cancer
  • Lack of effective screening tools for early detection.
  • Approximately 80% of lung cancers in China are advanced-stage disease at the time of diagnosis
  • Lack of access to health care
  • Lack of health insurance and resources
  • Lack of scientifically sound comprehensive care. It is estimated that about one-third of lung cancer patients may have died from inadequate or inappropriate therapies in China.

Current status of cancer treatment in China

Cancer poses a formidable challenge to public health in China, constituting a significant share of the nation’s disease burden. The Chinese populace grapples with a heightened prevalence of diverse malignancies such as pulmonary, gastric, hepatic, colorectal, and esophageal cancers. The governmental emphasis on cancer management and therapy has spurred notable progress in healthcare infrastructure, scientific exploration, and patient welfare.

In recent times, China’s healthcare framework has undergone marked enhancements, manifesting in strides pertaining to early-stage identification, diagnostic methodologies, and therapeutic interventions. The rollout of the Vision 2030 for a Healthier China initiative strives to curtail cancer fatality rates by bolstering preventive measures, screening protocols, and treatment schemes. This holistic approach centers on augmenting public consciousness, broadening healthcare accessibility, and championing avant-garde therapeutic interventions.

Breast cancer treatment in China

Recent years have witnessed notable progress in the field of breast cancer treatment in China. Chinese medical institutions have improved their diagnostic and therapeutic skills in response to the growing incidence of breast cancer. Current treatments encompass a comprehensive approach that combines surgical procedures, chemotherapeutic agents, radiation therapy, and targeted pharmacological interventions. Immunotherapy and customized medicine are also becoming increasingly popular.

The Chinese government has placed cancer research as a top priority, resulting in enhanced patient outcomes and increased survival rates. The implementation of initiatives to enhance public consciousness and prompt identification has also bolstered the efficacy of breast cancer treatment in China, instilling optimism among the millions impacted by the ailment.

Breast cancer treatment in China

Among Chinese women, breast cancer is a frequently encountered form of malignancy. Since the 1990s, the prevalence of breast cancer in China has increased at a rate that is twice as fast as the global average. According to estimates, the rate of breast cancer in China is projected to rise to 100 cases per 100,000 people in the age bracket of 55 to 69. Additionally, it is predicted that there will be a total of 2,500,000 breast cancer patients in China by the year 2021.

Surgery is a crucial component of the comprehensive therapeutic approach for early-stage breast cancer. Due to advancements in systemic treatments, the nature of breast surgery has evolved throughout the years. Extensive clinical trials have shown that there is no disparity in survival rates between individuals who underwent breast-conserving surgery (BCS) and those who had a mastectomy. In addition, despite a drop in the risk of loco-regional recurrence (LRR) of breast cancer from 30% in 1990 to 15% in 2011, there was no correlation with the type of surgery performed. BCS, or breast-conserving surgery, has emerged as the leading surgical approach for treating breast cancer on a global scale.

In the United States, approximately 60% to 70% of patients with stage 0 to II breast cancer undergo BCS. Nevertheless, in recent years, some studies have documented a growing inclination for mastectomy. This can be attributed, at least in part, to the greater utilization of pre-operative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), breast reconstruction procedures, and patient autonomy in decision-making. In China, the surgical treatment of breast cancer has experienced significant transformation in recent decades. A retrospective multicenter study conducted in China revealed that modified radical mastectomy continued to be the predominant approach for the treatment of breast cancer, while the use of breast-conserving surgery (BCS) remained restricted.

Liver cancer treatment in China

Liver cancer treatment in China has made significant progress in recent years, driven by the combination of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and state-of-the-art medical technologies. China, with one of the highest rates of liver cancer worldwide, has made substantial progress in fighting this challenging illness.

Surgery, particularly liver resection and transplantation, is a fundamental treatment in China. These procedures are frequently paired with state-of-the-art imaging techniques and minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, which improve accuracy and decrease the time needed for recuperation. Targeted treatments, like Sorafenib, have significantly enhanced outcomes for patients with advanced liver cancer by impeding tumor growth and proliferation.

Liver cancer treatment in China

Furthermore, China has taken a leading role in the integration of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with conventional medical therapies. Herbal remedies and acupuncture are commonly used to alleviate side effects and enhance the quality of life for patients. These integrated treatments embody a comprehensive perspective on cancer care that is increasingly acknowledged on a global scale.

In addition, China’s strong healthcare infrastructure facilitates considerable research and clinical trials. Current research is aggressively investigating innovations such as immunotherapy and personalized medicine, which hold promise for more efficacious and individualized therapies.

In China, the treatment of liver cancer combines traditional and innovative approaches, with ongoing research and international collaboration aimed at improving therapeutic outcomes.

Best cancer hospitals in China

China has a number of top-tier hospitals that specialize in cancer treatment. These hospitals are equipped with state-of-the-art technology and staffed by highly esteemed medical personnel. Notable cancer treatment hospitals in China include:


Cancer hospitals in China

  • Peking University Cancer Hospital: Located in Beijing, this hospital is known for its comprehensive cancer care, advanced diagnostic techniques, and multidisciplinary treatment approaches.
  • Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center: A leading cancer hospital in Shanghai, it is recognized for its state-of-the-art facilities and expertise in various cancer treatments.
  • Lu-Daopei Cancer Hospital: Lu Daopei Hospital in China is renowned for its expertise in hematology and bone marrow transplantation. It is a leading institution dedicated to treating complex blood disorders with advanced medical technologies.
  • Beijing Gobroad Hospital: Beijing GoBroad Hospital is a prominent medical facility specializing in comprehensive healthcare services with a focus on advanced medical research and technology. It is known for providing high-quality patient care and innovative treatment options.
  • Beijing Puhua International Hospital: Beijing Puhua International Hospital is a leading medical institution known for its cutting-edge neurological and stem cell treatments. It provides high-quality healthcare services to both local and international patients, emphasizing personalized care and advanced medical technologies.
  • Cancer Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences): Situated in Beijing, this hospital is a premier institution for cancer research and treatment, offering advanced therapies and participating in numerous clinical trials.
  • Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center: Located in Guangzhou, this center is renowned for its innovative treatment methods and strong emphasis on cancer research.
  • Zhejiang Cancer Hospital: Based in Hangzhou, it is known for its comprehensive cancer treatment programs and integration of traditional Chinese medicine with modern therapies.

What is the cost of cancer treatment in China?

The cost of cancer treatment in China exhibits significant variation based on factors such as the specific type of cancer, the stage of the disease, the treatment protocol, and the facility chosen. In China, cancer treatment is often more cost-effective than in Western countries, although it can still impose a significant financial burden on many families.

For example, the cost of surgery can vary between $5,000 and $20,000, chemotherapy can range from $3,000 to $10,000 every cycle, and radiation therapy might cost between $5,000 and $15,000. Advanced medical interventions like as immunotherapy and targeted therapy tend to have higher costs, typically ranging from \$20,000 to \$100,000 per year. Moreover, patients frequently encounter costs associated with diagnostic examinations, pharmaceuticals, and hospital admissions.

The Chinese government has enacted measures to mitigate the economic strain on individuals by increasing healthcare insurance coverage and offering subsidies for necessary medical procedures. Nevertheless, families, especially those residing in rural regions, may still have difficulties covering their out-of-pocket expenses.

Average cost of cancer treatment in China (In Yuan)


Type MedicaltionsDiagnosisTreatmentSurgerySanitary Other
Lung cancer5800320020006500160006500
Stomach cancer8200250021005555110004200
Esophageal cancer700025003300500070002200
Bladder cancer500019001300500042004200


Latest Therapies Used in China for cancer treatment

China has made significant strides in developing and adopting the latest drugs and therapies for cancer treatment. The country has embraced personalized medicine, integrating genomic and molecular profiling to tailor treatments to individual patients. Some of the latest drugs and therapies include:

  • Targeted Therapy: Drugs like gefitinib and erlotinib for non-small cell lung cancer, and trastuzumab for HER2-positive breast cancer, are widely used.
  • CAR T-Cell therapy: CAR T-cell therapy in China has rapidly advanced, becoming a promising treatment for certain types of cancer, particularly leukemia and lymphoma. Chinese researchers and hospitals are at the forefront of developing and implementing this innovative immunotherapy, contributing significantly to global advancements in the field.
  • Immunotherapy: Checkpoint inhibitors such as pembrolizumab and nivolumab, as well as CAR-T cell therapies, have shown promising results and are increasingly used in clinical practice.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): Integrating TCM with modern therapies is a common approach in China, aimed at enhancing treatment efficacy and reducing side effects.
  • Precision Medicine: Advances in genomic sequencing and molecular diagnostics enable personalized treatment plans, improving outcomes and minimizing adverse effects.

Cancer Clinical Trials in China

China is heavily engaged in cancer research and clinical trials, making significant contributions to worldwide endeavors aimed at generating novel therapies and enhancing patient outcomes. The government has created multiple clinical trial facilities and research organizations, frequently engaging in collaborations with international partners.


Cancer clinical trials in China

Clinical trials conducted in China encompass a diverse array of cancer kinds and treatment regimens, encompassing novel pharmaceuticals, combination therapies, and pioneering techniques such as gene therapy. The National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) regulates these trials to ensure compliance with international standards and ethical principles.

Engaging in clinical trials provides patients with the opportunity to get state-of-the-art treatments and contributes to the progress of cancer research. China’s strong clinical trial infrastructure and increasing investment in research position it as a major contributor to the global effort to combat cancer.


China has achieved significant advancements in cancer therapy, propelled by the progress in medical technology, research, and government initiatives. China’s exceptional facilities, advanced medicines, and active participation in clinical trials position it to continue making substantial contributions to global cancer care. Nevertheless, there are still obstacles to overcome in order to provide fair and equal access to medical treatment and effectively address the financial strain on patients. Continued endeavors to improve healthcare infrastructure and broaden insurance coverage will be pivotal in tackling these challenges and enhancing outcomes for cancer patients throughout China.

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