The Philippine Cancer Report (Part 2)

Feature Story

By Rizal Raoul Reyes

In the 2015, Philippine Cancer Facts and Estimates Report authored by Adriano V Laudico, MD, Maria Rica Mirasol- Lumague, MD, Victoria Medina, Cynthia A Mapua, MS, Francisco G Valenzuela and Eero Pukkala, PhD produced by the Philippine Cancer Society (PCS) there is hope noting that “one-third of all cancers can be prevented.”

In 2012, the PCS reported “13 out of 100 males and 14 out of 100 females in the Philippines would have had some form of cancer if they would have lived up to age 75. Eleven out of 100 males and 7 out of 100 females would have died from cancer before age 75.

The Philippine Cancer Report (Part 2) 2“Cancer protecting mechanisms prevent cancer. A healthy lifestyle that is started in childhood, particularly eating a healthy diet, maintaining physical fitness and minimizing properly coping with stress may decrease the risk of cancer, coronary artery disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes,” added the PCS.

Early detection

Nevertheless, after nearly two decades of “Awareness Campaigns” conducted by the public and private sectors, such as those on breast, cervix and colorectal cancers, a greater part of these cancers remain undiagnosed and treated at an earlier, more curable stage. “Early detection or screening for cancer has not been implemented on a nationwide scale by the government, the PCS pointed out.

Being a Third World country, economics plays a big factor in battling the Big C. The PCS noted more than 80 percent of Filipino families are not capable of out-of pocket expenses needed for basic medical care.

According to the 2005-2007 initial projections of the Philippine National Health Accounts (PNHA) released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), total expenditure as a percentage of GDP decreased from 3.4 percent in 2005 to 3.2 percent in 2007. Private out-of- pocket expenditure in 2007 was 54.3 percent of total health expenditure, with government contributing 13.0 percent and local government units (LGUs) contributing 13.3 percent.

There was also drop in the share of social insurance to 8.5 percent, from 9.8 percent in 2005. “The main national health insurance provider, PhilHealth, in cooperation with local government units, has been steadily increasing the enrolment of indigent families, and aiming to insure a large portion of indigent families and the self employed, particularly starting but slow during the immediate past year or so with the advent of the Universal Health Law and Sin Tax Law,” explained the report.

Although there is a perception that there low awareness among Filipinas in treating breast cancer, the PCS noted otherwise saying Filipinas are already aware that breast cancer is curable when detected and treated early. It pointed out that majority of women with detected breast lumps will indeed have the mass biopsied if they were assured that the treatment will be free. It is not only the direct costs of treatment that will have to be considered.

The Philippine Cancer Report (Part 2) 3“Indirect, but equally important, socioeconomic factors will have to be considered, such as transportation costs, care for the children and household while the mother is in hospital, perception and attitudes of the husband, and attitudes about perceived other “mandatory” treatment such as chemotherapy,” said the PCS.

The PCS said Institutional factors might also pose additional challenges, such as long queues and waiting times, unnecessary tests, and bureaucratic regulations and procedures.

“Contrary to the continuing misperception that most Filipinos lack awareness that certain common cancers are curable when detected and treated early, it could be that due to socio-economic realities, majority actually have no choice,” the PCS pointed out.

Palliative care

In September 1991, the PCS established its Patient Outreach Services, the first palliative care program in the Philippines. The 2007 Directory of the Asia Hospice Palliative Care Network shows that there are 35 registered Philippine facilities, 18 located outside of Metro Manila.

In the Philippines, the PCS noted prescription of morphine and other strong opioids are regulated and relatively few physicians would seek to be licensed to prescribe opioids which becomes the major barriers in delivering effective treatment of severe pain either caused by cancer, following major operations, or many other very painful conditions.

The PCS urged more Filipino physicians to be assertive and equip themselves to treat cancer pain armed with the necessary tools to do so but compliant also to government regulations.

August 2017 Health and Lifestyle

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