Health advocates gathered to call for better cancer care in the Philippines through a candle-lighting ceremony held last March 10 at the Greenbelt Activity Area in Makati City.
A multi-sectoral group composed of members from the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry led by the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) in collaboration with MSD, recently came together for a landmark event titled Hope Matters: Lighting A Path for Better Cancer Care to ask for the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Law (UHC) and the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA).
The activity was attended by stakeholders who want to push for better cancer care, including Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO), Philippine College of Surgeons- Cancer Commission (PCS-CANCOM), Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO), MSD and Astra Zeneca. Aside from the symbolic gesture of lighting candles for cancer awareness, they launched a call for action through an online petition that is addressed to the National Government. Cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality in the country. According to the 2018 Global Data on Cancer, more than 140,000 new cancer cases and more than 80,000 cancer deaths are expected in the Philippines every year. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Filipinos, followed by lung, colon, liver, and prostate1. A study conducted by the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Human Genetics, National Institutes of Health, finds that 89 of every 100,000 Filipinos are afflicted with cancer while four Filipinos die of cancer every hour2.
The provisions of the NICCA, which was passed in 2019, will help mitigate the impact of cancer in the country. It ensures the provision of quality health services and financial risk protection to cancer patients. It emphasizes cancer prevention and improvement of survivorship, by improving related health services and care while including additional funding for cancer programs.
Cancer survivor Jojo Flores explained the added challenges that patients have to overcome in order to receive their much-needed treatment, “For cancer patients, it is collision of the two big C’s — Cancer and Covid. The treatment for cancer patients is time-bound, but because of the Covid situation, many have not been able to receive their treatments. Hospitals and doctors had to focus on CoVID-19 cases, and even transporting the patient to the hospital was a problem.” he said. Mr. Flores added that although NICCA may take time to implement in its totality, there are aspects of the law that can already help save many lives, especially with early detection.
Flores is calling specific NICCA provisions to be implemented as soon as possible. These are:
The immediate classification of cancer patients as Persons with Disabilities PWDs as soon as formally diagnosed.
Mandatory cancer policies in the workplace.
The inclusion of innovative therapies among cancer treatments aimed at treating the disease and improve the patient’s quality of life; and
Coordinated cancer screening and detection programs at the community levels.