“Over 140,000 Filipinos were diagnosed with cancer in 2018, with around 86,000 deaths recorded.”
These were the statistics presented by Dr. Buenaventura Ramos Jr., President of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO), gleaned from the World Health Organization’s Global Cancer Observatory (GCO), to kick off an insightful and spirited discussion on battling cancer in the country, recently held via a Facebook Live session titled Cancer Game Plan (CGP) 2.0: Putting the Game Plan into Action.
During the virtual roundtable, Dr. Ramos gave an overview of the current burden of the disease in the Philippines, noting that these are alarming numbers, with around 200 or more people dying daily because of cancer. “What’s more, the limited resources, poverty rate, pronounced inequity in terms of access to cancer care services, and overwhelming out-of-pocket expenses also continue to exacerbate the burden of affected patients and their families,” he added.
The roundtable session by Hope From Within, a multi-stakeholder cancer advocacy group led by MSD in the Philippines, also featured speakers Ivan Arota of AC Health from the Ayala Group, and Nina Corpuz, broadcast journalist and Cancer Game Plan Report PH Ambassador. Hope from Within’s roster of celebrity ambassadors gave a heartfelt sharing of their experiences to inspire cancer patients, caregivers, and advocates alike.
The Cancer Game Plan Report
Addressing the burden of disease, as established by Dr. Ramos, Cancer Game Plan ambassador, Nina Corpuz shared the significance of collaborating for better cancer care today. “The Cancer Game Plan (CGP) is a multi-stakeholder advocacy that aims to raise awareness towards initiatives that can help strengthen cancer prevention and control in the Philippines.”
Sharing the results from the Cancer Game Plan 2.0 report, Corpuz said “the Health Impact Projection model or research shows how innovative treatment options like immunotherapy allow cancer patients to enjoy added years to their life, and life to their years. This means living life like normal na parang natututukan mo pa din yung business mo, nakakapasyal ka pa with family, and you don’t experience the supposed debilitating effects na lagi nating naririnig.”
Hope From Within describes immunotherapy as a breakthrough treatment that strengthens the immune system – enabling it to recognize, remember, and fight cancer cells. The treatment, applied through an immune checkpoint blocker, may help slow down or stop the growth of cancer cells in the patient’s body, boosting overall survival and improving the quality of life.
The need for better access to such innovative treatment options was emphasized in the forum, and is advocated through Hope From Within’s web and digital platforms.
Landmark laws for cancer care
At the center of the access discussion were landmark legislations related to healthcare, specifically the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law and the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) which were both passed in 2019. The PSMO called particular attention to the formation of the National Integrated Cancer Council, which would support the full implementation of the NICCA, with a petition campaign that enjoins all public and private stakeholders to sign and urge legislators to finally pass the law in full.
“Multi-stakeholder collaboration is at the heart of cancer care progress for Filipinos. That will help us take the next big step in cancer preparedness,” according to Corpuz.
As a clear example of the private sector’s involvement and commitment to this multi-stakeholder approach, Ivan Arota from AC Health of the Ayala Group was pleased to announce the group’s development and operation of the first comprehensive cancer hospital in the country which is slated to open its doors in 2023. For patients who have been displaced because of the pandemic and who are in need of chemotherapy, AC Health set up outpatient cancer care services through its Healthway clinics.