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7th Chinese National Urology Congress, 20-24 October 2004, Chongqing, People’s Republic of China

Interstitial Cystitis in China

Presentation on IC at the 7th Chinese National Urology Congress, 20-24 October 2004, Chongqing, People’s Republic of China

As I stepped off the plane in the Shanghai sunshine, I soon realised that all my preconceptions about China were decades out of date. Not a sign of the mysterious and inscrutable Chinese mandarins with wispy beards and flowing gowns that characterised old China in the books I read avidly as a child. Not a trace of the characteristic blue button-up Mao suits to be seen anywhere on the streets of Shanghai. All replaced by the latest and most ‘hip’ western fashions. China is a booming, modern country with a gigantic population of hard-working, friendly people, eager to learn about new developments, glued to their mobile phones and taking their country into the 21st century at the speed of a Ferrari. As we hurtle along the motorway from Pudong international airport to the heart of Shanghai, stopping only when caught up in a traffic jam, the approaching horizon is one of an ultra-modern city. Skyscrapers, vying with each other in height and avant-garde design, are interspersed with a scattering of old-style colonial buildings that form an echo of a distant past.


City of Chongqing and the People's Assembly Hall

This formed the background to my first visit to China to give a presentation on the diagnosis and treatment of IC to urologists at the 7th Chinese National Urology Congress in the city of Chongqing, another flight further into China. This trip was sponsored by Bioniche that is currently launching its hyaluronic acid intravesical treatment (Cystistat®) in the People’s Republic of China, the first western product for the treatment of IC to be introduced on the Chinese market.

There is still little awareness of IC in China. Knowledge is limited to the few urologists who are able to attend international congresses abroad and who have a working knowledge of English. And it is this - the language - that forms the main stumbling block where IC is concerned. Most information on IC is currently published in the English language. While the younger generation is now acquiring language skills, the bulk of the people, including much of the medical profession, can only speak and understand Chinese. At the present time, this means that detailed medical information about the diagnosis and treatment of IC for doctors as well as information for patients urgently needs to be available in Chinese. An ideal solution and first step in increasing overall awareness and knowledge would be a pan-Chinese website for patients and professionals in all Chinese-speaking countries since, much to my surprise, I was informed that there is wide-scale ownership of computers and access to the internet.

Chinese National Urology Congress

The Chinese national urology congress was held in the impressive People’s Assembly Hall in the city-province of Chongqing, a huge city built on mountain sides looking down onto the Yangtze River, with a total regional population of around 30 million. The aim of my presentation, with the slides also in Chinese, was to provide a basic overview of IC to set the ball rolling in raising awareness among urologists around the country. Some 800 urologists attended the presentation. How many of these could understand English was uncertain, possibly around half. After the presentation, however, there was a very positive response with many of the doctors requesting further information. They clearly find the international controversies surrounding the diagnosis of IC an intriguing enigma and the Chinese certainly like challenges! Hopefully we shall see more patients correctly diagnosed in the coming years and more Chinese doctors participating in research projects.

With a total population in China of around 1.4 billion, the potential number of IC patients is staggering. Once correctly diagnosed, these patients could form a gigantic basis for very large-scale studies in the future.

Although traditional Chinese medicine is still extensively used, use of western medicine is rapidly increasing. As in many other countries around the world, the Chinese healthcare system is currently undergoing reform. In the coming decades it will be faced with a major problem of the aging population.

Patient perspective – travelling in China  

No need for IC patients to worry about travelling in China. There are plenty of public toilets and these are usually marked on city maps. In addition to public toilets, there are so many restaurants, teahouses and hotels that an IC patient never needs to be caught without a toilet. In the main shopping centres, department stores provide toilet facilities and tourist spots are also well-equipped with public toilets.

Food may cause a problem in some regions where the food is particularly spicy and hot. But in most places steamed white rice or noodles and vegetarian or unspiced chicken or meat dishes are available. Hotels usually have western menus in addition to Chinese food. Only bottled water should be drunk as the water in the taps is not suitable for drinking.

Taxis are a very cheap and effective way of getting about, but beware of being caught in traffic jams in major cities, particularly in rush hours!

Jane Meijlink
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