Prostate cancer is one of the top 5 cancers in the Philippines and the ninth highest in number of cancer-related deaths among Filipino males according to GLOBOCAN. Despite the statistics, awareness on the disease is very low.
The Philippine Urological Association (PUA), together with the Department of Health (DOH), Cancer Warriors Foundation, Inc., the Philippine Society of Uro-Oncologists (PSUO), and Johnson and Johnson (Philippines), Inc., led the observance of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month with a series of activities that aimed to generate greater awareness for the disease. With the unified theme Prostate Cancer Sama-Samang Labanan, Tamang Impormasyon Kailangan, efforts were focused on educating the public on the importance of early detection and treatment to slow the progression of prostate cancer.
A lay forum entitled Usapang Prostate Cancer was live streamed via the PUA Prostate Cancer Awareness Facebook page on September 11 to underline truths about the disease. Representatives from the the Department of Health Cancer Control Division and Cancer Warriors Foundation, Inc. also joined the discussion to share what support the government and privately funded organizations can provide patients and their families. This was followed by free teleconsultations by members of the Philippine Urological Association and the Philippine Urology Residents Association last September 18. More than 300 Filipino males signed up for the free teleconsultation service.
Fighting prostate cancer with information
Awareness on prostate cancer is very low as men do not talk about it in the open and often confuse its early symptoms as signs of aging. These include frequent urination, a weak urine stream, and pain in the lower back, hips, or pelvis. The only bigger warning signs are blood in the urine or semen and pain or burning sensation when urinating.
The risk of prostate cancer increases with age, especially after 50. It can also run in the family, developed through a combination of genes and poor lifestyle. There is no proven prevention strategy for prostate cancer, which is why early diagnosis is important.
“Information is the most important weapon against prostate cancer,” said Dr. Clarito Cairo, program manager of the National Integrated Cancer Control Program, Disease Prevention and Control Bureau of the Department of Health. “The more people know about its early symptoms, the earlier they can get screened. Even in advanced stages, there are treatments available that still allow patients to live a long life.”
“While mostly indolent, prostate cancer needs to be addressed immediately to stop the cancer cells from spreading to other areas of the body,” explained Dr. Ernesto Gerial, president of the Philippine Urological Association. “Disseminating information about who are at risk of the disease and what its symptoms are can save many lives.”
He added: “The lack of noise around prostate cancer has resulted to unequal support for the disease as compared to breast and cervical cancer. While we at the Philippine Urological Association have been hard at work for many years for prostate cancer to finally take the spotlight, we know that we cannot do it alone. That is why we are happy to be partnering with other medical associations, the government, and Johnson & Johnson in creating greater awareness for the disease and extending help to patients.”
“There is hope in prostate cancer,” said Dr. Erwin Benedicto, head of Medical Affairs of Johnson & Johnson’s (Philippines), Inc. “It is a hard fact that most people should know but don’t—not yet.”
“Doctors are our partners in maintaining good health. Supporting them in the fight against prostate cancer is crucial, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic posing several limitations. By working together, information, proper diagnosis, and appropriate treatment for the disease can be made available for all.”