Medical oncologist Dr. Claire Soliman Shares her insights on how to deal with the Big C and a holistic strategy to win the battle against it
By Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos
Cancer remains a prevalent problem in the country, despite the advances in the prevention and treatment which are locally available and at par with international state-of-the-art management of this dreaded disease.
The prevalence has dramatically increased based on the latest Philippine Cancer Facts and Figures data published by the Philippine Cancer Society. In its 2015 report, there are over 109,000 new cases of cancer for both male and female per year. About 66,000 deaths were reported, which posed a 30 percent increase from the 2000 figure.
For one, breast cancer, the most common type of cancer in the country, afflicts 20,000 new cases per year, with a high mortality when diagnosed in the advanced stages.
For Dr. Claire Soliman, a medical oncologist, and president of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncologists (PSMO), the Philippines is not far behind in the fight against cancer. We have competent and wordclass specialists, who regularly update themselves with the latest trends in management; and state-ofthe- art facilities for earlier diagnoses, treatment, and management of cancer.
Noting advances in cancer therapy, such as in breast and lung cancer where specialists are now capable of looking at genetic and molecular bases before treating the cancer, Dr. Soliman says it has now a lot different than the one-size-fits-all treatment in the past.
The Philippines also has expert doctors in the field of surgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology and other allied specialists who are capable and well trained to handle these cases.
With specialists in different fields of cancer treatment at the helm, the aggressive fight against cancer is also strengthened through technology, be it through medicine, surgery, radiation, and facilities. Dr. Soliman adds that most medicines that are in the United States and Europe are available here as well.
However, there is much room for improvement.
While there are services and assistance provided by the government through various programs of the Department of Health (DOH), charity support from the Philippines Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), and treatments shouldered by PhilHealth, there are still more improvements in the assistance of cancer patients worth looking into.
Specifically for cancer patients, the survival rate of Filipinos patients living the Philippines is lower compared to Filipinos living in the Unites States or in Europe.
Dr. Soliman adds that screening program here is more sporadic and opportunistic, not like in other countries where there is a sustained nationwide screening program.
While cancer screening in available, screening in PH is mostly of out-of-pocket, unlike in other countries where cancer screening is mandated by law and is covered by the government.
“If a patient cannot afford it even if it’s available, he/she cannot have the treatment and therefore survival rate suffers,” she explains.
While the help and treatment is available, Dr. Soliman underscores the importance of early detection of cancer. “Early detection is the key to curing cancer,” she points out, “because cancer is curable when detected early. Cancer does not be a death sentence once diagnosed.”
She also highlights the importance of being seen by a cancer expert or oncologist. “While there are many who advocate alternative treatment to cancer because they fear the side effects of certain medicines such as chemotherapy,” she says, “it is important to understand that while these treatments may have side effects, they are the only ones that have been proven to cure or treat cancer.”
Cancer Game Plan Ph
With the growing threat and impact of cancer in the country, a movement was launched entitled Cancer Game Plan PH, which is an advocacy that aims to help arm patients with the necessary resources for them to effectively fight the dreaded disease.
Pillars of the advocacy include the promotion of early detection through testing, the building of solid support systems that address patient needs from the onset, as well as increasing access to treatments which oftentimes cannot be availed of due to their costly nature.
An expanded plan stemming from last year’s Hope from Within campaign, the Cancer Game Plan PH is geared to systematically change the face of disease care – highlighting existing targeted therapies and breakthrough new treatments – such as immunotherapy – that address a greater body of cancers, effectively helping many patients in their journey to be better.
Cancer Game Plan PH expands this scope in particular to include, in addition to lung cancer: melanoma, head and neck, gastric, bladder, and Hodgkin lymphoma types of cancers.
Nov 2018 Health and Lifestyle