In commemoration of World Cancer Day in February, Hope From Within, a multi-stakeholder advocacy program led by MSD Philippines, hosted a forum themed, “Voices of Hope: a new era in lung cancer care.”
The forum, held recently at Manila Diamond Hotel, focused on the increasing prevalence of Lung Cancer in the Philippines, and the stronger fighting chance for survival for patients, caregivers, and medical professionals to, as a community, combat and win over cancer.
In 2018, the International Agency for Research on Cancer recorded 18.1 million new cases of cancer and 9.6 million deaths worldwide, with over 80,000 people of those deaths occurring in the Philippines. This alarming statistic puts cancer as a top healthcare burden, not just locally but also worldwide.
Among all cancers, lung cancer remains to be one of the most common in the world and in the country, and one of the deadliest in terms of being a non-communicable disease. In 2018, more than 17,000 cases of lung cancer were recorded in the Philippines, and more than 15,000 deaths occurred out of these incidences.
The event highlighted that despite the overwhelming statistics, Filipino cancer patients and their loved ones can have a stronger fighting chance, starting with the changing perspective on cancer management that focuses on the whole patient journey in the continuum care. With a multi-stakeholder approach of doctors, researchers, governments, regulators, community members, and advocates working together, cancer may be a thing of the past. With more treatment options that are now accessible thanks to better research and collaborative action, and new mandates like the new National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA), diagnosis, care, and treatments can be made more accessible to Filipino cancer patients regardless of the type and stage of their disease. These strides are being made in order to change the local situation of cancer for the better.
Joining the event’s panel discussions and the growing Hope From Within family as its newest ambassador is veteran actor and lung cancer survivor Tirso Cruz III. Broadcast journalist and Hope From Within’s first ever ambassador Diego Castro as well as veteran actress and caregiver Susan Africa are also part of the panel moderated by Dr. Herdee Luna, multimedia associate at Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO).
Sharing their expert knowledge on lung cancer in the Philippines and how cancer care and treatment are being made more responsive and affordable are representatives from the Oncology Department of Lung Center of the Philippines, PSMO and the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO).
To address the gaps and barriers from the perspective of patients and caregivers in the cancer patient journey, the dialogue brought to light the crucial stages in lung cancer management – from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis, treatment, and after-treatment care. The discussion also touched on the emotional, physical, and financial burdens experienced in the patient’s journey, which gave more light towards spurring collaborative action within all patient groups to provide better solutions.
Insights from members of medical societies, patient groups, the private sector, and government agencies also helped identify the way forward to the improvement of care, support, and awareness of novel treatment options that patients and caregivers need to arm them better to win against the disease.
At the center of the new era of cancer care and management are the breakthrough novel treatment options like immunotherapy and targeted therapies. These options were proven to prolong the survival and quality of life of many patients with advanced lung cancer. To increase access to new treatments like immunotherapy, the forum expounded on updates on the NICCA and other patient treatment access programs.
Under the NICCA, the government’s cancer care facilities will be expanded to include the development of a Philippine Cancer Center and regional cancer centers, and will broaden PhilHealth benefits to include not only treatment but also screening, rehabilitation, pain management, and palliative care. The law will also grant cancer patients and survivors 20 percent discount on medicines and maintenance drugs, among other benefits under the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons. Until the law is fully implemented, patients and caregivers can avail of financial assistance currently provided by the DOH, DSWD, and the PCSO. These provisions serve to prove that, with constant support and ever-evolving innovative medical solutions, being given a chance to beat a deadly disease like cancer is completely possible.
The “Voices of Hope: a new era in lung cancer” was hosted by Hope From Within, an advocacy program led by MSD Philippines. The program is aligned with its corporate anthem, “Inventing for Life”, which encapsulates the company’s vision and efforts towards invention and innovation to help address some of the world’s most life-threatening diseases like lung cancer. These innovations and inventions aim to utilize world-class science to provide quality medical solutions, and likewise spearhead and strengthen multi-sectoral collaboration to broaden the reach of healthcare with the goal of improving patient outcomes and saving more lives.