Awareness first step to fighting cancer
The number of cancer cases in the country is rising steadily. Based on the most recent data, 85,000 new cases of cancer in both Filipino men and women are predicted to develop annually, a figure that will most likely double within the next decade.
Awareness is the first crucial step in the prevention, early detection and optimal management of cancer. This is why the Department of Health (DOH) is working with public and private sector partners, through the ONCOURAGE Health Information Advocacy, to ensure that accurate information on cancer is continuously disseminated to both Filipino healthcare professionals and the public. The DOH promotes early detection of cancer through risk assessment and screening in primary, secondary and tertiary levels of care—from barangay health stations to rural health units, provincial and city district hospitals all the way up to medical centers.
Filipinos need to be proactive about their health. Adult women of all ages should perform breast self-examination (BSE) at least once a month to look for any lump, dimpling of the skin or changes in the nipples. Men aged 40 should consider having a digital rectal examination (DRE) to check for early signs of prostate cancer. Once they reach the age of 50, Filipinos should talk to their doctor about colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening. These are just three examples of how to be proactive in the early detection of cancer.
The DOH recently launched Pilipinas Go4Health, a nationwide healthy lifestyle movement that aims to encourage Filipinos to make a personal commitment to exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol consumption. There is solid scientific evidence showing that a healthy lifestyle is the most effective way of preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, diabetes and cancer. I encourage our readers to visit www.go4health.ph to know more about how they can commit to a healthy lifestyle.
In its first year of implementation the Sin Tax Reform Law is expected to generate P33.96 billion in additional revenues generated from higher excise taxes imposed on alcohol and tobacco products. Under the law, 80 percent of incremental revenues will be earmarked for the universal health care under the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) while 20 percent will be allocated for the medical assistance and health enhancement facilities program.
The DOH will soon start the bidding process for the construction of nine oncology centers all over the country. Made possible through an innovative public-private partnership (PPP), the construction of these centers will make modern chemotherapy and radiation therapy services available in strategically located DOH medical centers. Cancer patients need not go to Metro Manila, Cebu City or Davao city for treatment because modern oncology centers will be established in smaller cities across the archipelago.
Thanks to additional revenues generated by the Sin Tax Reform, the national government is able to subsidize the PhilHealth membership of poor Filipino families and improve health benefit packages as part of our Kalusugan Pangkalahatan or Universal Health Care program. We also plan to expand our PhilHealth Z benefit package for cancer patients. This new benefit package is designed to assist patients with “catastrophic illnesses” such as cancer that push many Filipinos into prolonged, costly hospitalization and poverty. The Z benefit package currently covers childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia and breast and prostate cancer.
The DOH will continue to work with the private sector to achieve our shared goal of enhancing the quality of cancer care in the country.
(Dr. Enrique T. Ona is the health secretary. The ONCOURAGE Health Information Advocacy promotes public awareness and continuing medical education on the prevention, detection and management of cancer and blood disorders. It is a collaboration between the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology, Philippine Society of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Philippine Foundation for Breast Care-Kasuso, Touched by Max Philippines, Balikatang Thalassemia and Novartis Oncology Philippines.)