FDA chief bats for early cancer detection | Inquirer Business

FDA chief bats for early cancer detection

02:42 PM May 29, 2018

Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director-general Nela Charade Puno is calling on all women to have regular breast examinations, saying “early cancer detection can save lives.”

Puno made the call as she announced that her doctors had agreed to let her resume her regular work routine after a brief rest following her breast surgery. This came after she was diagnosed with breast cancer early this year.


According to Puno, her bout with the Big “C” proved the value of regular medical examinations and the benefit of early cancer detection.

“Surgery practically rids the patient of the cancer, which is why I elected to go for one immediately,” Puno said.  “Subsequent treatments are meant to ensure that the possibility of recurrences is eliminated or, at least, diminished,” she added.


“I am fortunate to have discovered the cancer early and to benefit from available medical intervention,” Puno said. “Had it not been discovered early, the effectiveness of cancer treatments would have been significantly reduced.”

According to Puno, the occurrence of breast cancer  is triggered by various causes.

“Unfortunately, the primary risk factor is just that – being a woman,” she said. Other risk factors include obesity, lack of physical exercise, diet choices and lifestyle.

“Medical experts estimate that about 10 percent of the cases of breast cancer in women are due to genes,” Puno said. “In other words, it is hereditary which was what happened in my case.”

“My bout with cancer was due to what are called ‘fixed risk factors’, or those over which an individual can do nothing about,” she said. The other set of risk factors are “modifiable,” which means their effects can be reduced by changing certain things like diet and lifestyle.

“There were concerns that work pressure may have triggered the development of cancer in me,” Puno recalled. The FDA head said she had just been through a “tough year,” having laid down major reforms in the agency was heading.

The pharmacy board examinations topnotcher related said she had just overhauled many of the crucial public service systems and processes in the FDA.


Among these were the reduction of the time required to process applications, particularly for certificates of product registration. Puno also instituted a centralized system for receiving and distributing documents within the organization, as well as a process for releasing them. She explained that this was necessary to ensure that the FDA is “liberated from undue influence and pressure from brokers and fixers”.

Puno also directed massive operations against manufacturers and retailers of fake, counterfeit and unregistered drugs and wellness products since these exposed the public to serious health risks. The operations netted close to P80 Million in confiscated goods within a one-year period.

“While these were really high-pressure tasks, my doctors said they had nothing or little to do with the onset of breast cancer on my part,” Puno clarified. “The vulnerability of my situation was due more to the fact that the risk runs in our family,” she said.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer have choices as to their preferred surgical intervention, Puno said. There are surgeries that involve the removal of all the breast tissues or the removal of just the tumor and some surrounding tissues, she said.

“The patient, based on the doctor’s assessment may opt for the former called mastectomy or the latter referred to as lumpectomy,” Puno said. “Each has advantages and disadvantages,” she added.

Some women have opted for the so-called prophylactic mastectomy which involves the removal of the breast to prevent a possible future occurrence of cancer, she explained.

“At the end of the day, this requires a serious discussion between patient and doctor with the patient making the final decision based on clear options,” she said.

Deciding on the post-surgery procedures are equally important, Puno said. She added that at this stage, it is also important to know what options are available and the merits and demerits of each.

“Modern medicine has expanded the range of options beyond chemotherapy and radiation therapy for the post-surgery stage,” Puno said. Also, do not discount the importance of getting a second medical opinion, she advised.

What counts most is the patient’s desire to win over cancer and be healed, she said.

“The news that one has cancer is always met with shock and disbelief,” she explained. No one is spared from the fear and anguish that the presence of cancer evokes.

“What is important is that one accepts the situation right away, understand it and cooperate with a medical experts for the options and the way forward.”

“A sense of despair can only serve to aggravate the sickness, prolong the healing process or negate the effects of medical intervention. In the end, the patient plays the second most important role in the treatment and healing process,” she said.

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