Cancer remains a big scourge in modern society. It’s like a thief breaking in a house while everyone is asleep without anyone noticing him. When everyone realizes that the house has been burglarized, many things are discovered missing and likely, they could not be recovered anymore. Similarly, cancer cells stealthily multiplies in one’s body and erodes one’s health. In many instances, when it’s diagnosed, it’s in the late stage already and cure is no longer possible.
Early diagnosis is therefore paramount because many cancers are now curable either by surgery or other forms of anti-cancer therapy if detected early enough.
A man forewarned is a man forearmed, so they say. We need to have a continuing health education campaign to increase public awareness, equip everyone with the basic knowledge to detect early signs of cancers, and for those at risk to undergo screening tests regularly.
That’s why the role of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO) along this line is very important. They’re equipping the public with the basic knowledge needed to understand the risk factors that can predispose one to cancer. A well-informed citizenry can change the landscape in the battle against cancer.
Despite their efforts though, there is still a big need to correct prevailing myths and misconceptions about cancer in the average Filipino’s mind, and only a sustained public education effort can achieve this and make sure the whole nation is well empowered mentally, intellectually and physically to battle the Big C.
So much is known already about cancer up to the biomolecular level. It’s no longer as mysterious like the Black Hole as it used to be. There are now even harmonized genomic studies helping us understand the development of cancer at the molecular level; but the basic fact remains that cancer is a lifestyle-related disease. What we eat and drink, and whether we exercise or not, play important roles in the development of several cancers, like in the breast, prostate, lungs and gastrointestinal tract (GIT).
The risk for breast cancer, for example, can be reduced with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables; while a predominantly red meatbased diet is linked with a higher risk of GIT cancer.
Exercise, or the lack of it, can also predispose one to some cancers and can impact survival of cancer patients. In young adult survivors of childhood cancers, vigorous exercise is linked with enhanced survival.
In breast cancer survivors, lack of exercise with low muscle mass and high body fat has been shown to adversely affect long-term survival.
If we can improve the general population’s lifestyle, that will really impact tremendously the nation’s health, not only in reducing cancer but other lifestyle-related diseases as well.
In this issue, we also welcome the maiden column (Better Days, page 6) of Senator Sonny Angara, who’s one of the low-key but hardworking (and high-achieving) senators in the country. His father, the late Senator Ed Angara has authored many health laws including the original PhilHealth law (RA 7875). I’m sure Senator Sonny will continue the legacy of his father; and with him at the Senate, physicians and all health advocates have a strong ally that can make our vision of universal healthcare realizable within the foreseeable future.
God bless our nation.
RAFAEL R. CASTILLO, MD
Sept 2018 Health and Lifestyle