SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Noting that cancer is the third leading cause of death in the Philippines, a lady-lawmaker has proposed an organized and sustained cancer control program through the creation of a National Cancer Care, Research, and Development Authority.
"The Department of Health identifies cancer as the third leading cause of death in the country, afflicting 189 per 100,000 Filipinos. Cancer kills 103 Filipinos daily or four (4) die per hour and one out of five is expected to acquire cancer up to the age of seventy-five," ANG NARS Party-list Rep. Leah S. Paquiz declared.
Rep. Paquiz is author of HB 5321 which mandates the creation of said body, to be referred to as the National Cancer Authority, "providing for its powers, structure and for other purposes." The bill has been referred for consideration to the House Committee on Government Reorganization (as lead panel) and the Committee on Health.
She noted a report by the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology in 2012 which revealed the Philippines at the center of the fight against breast cancer in Asia, with the highest incidence of breast cancer in the continent.
The report had it that an estimated three out of one hundred Filipino women will contract the disease before the age of seventy-five and one out of one hundred will die before the age of seventy-five.
She also noted a report by the Department of Health And the Philippine Cancer Society, Inc. that breast cancer is the most common cancer in the country, comprising sixteen percent (16%) of the 80,000 cancer cases in 2010.
The DOH said that the top cancer sites in the country include cancers of the lung/larynx, liver and colon/rectum/larynx. These are cancers whose major cases are known and where action can therefore be taken for primary prevention.
"For example, anti-smoking campaign for cancer of the lung, larynx, vaccination against hepatitis B virus for cancer of the liver, safe sex for cancer of the cervix, and a healthy diet for cancer of the colon/rectum/stomach. Except for liver cancer, the top Philippine cancer sites are also the top cancer sites worldwide," Paquiz pointed out.
The author said that In the Philippines, the problem of childhood cancer is more significant than in Western countries because of the relatively young Filipino population.
However, Paquiz said, overall pattern is similar and is dominated by leukemia. The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia as the most common childhood cancer; and despite the enormous progress in therapy, 15% to 20% of the children are incurable and all are subjected to highly toxic chemotherapy.
"Hence, the challenge is to identify leukemia-specific genetic alternatives that could be used both as biomarkers for high-risk leukemia and as targets for novel therapy," she added.
She added a DOH estimate that 30% to 50% of cancer patients in all stages of the disease will experience pain and 70% to 95% with advanced disease will have significant pain, but only a fraction of these patients receive adequate treatment.
Likewise, in a study conducted by the Philippine Cancer Society (PCS) on cancer pain among Filipino patients, 73% had pain related to their disease, 60% of which was persistent.
The author also recalled that the DOH-Philippine Cancer Control Program (DOH-PCCP) - in line with its six Pilars of (1) Epidemiology and Research, (2) Public Information and Health Education, (3) Prevention and Early Detection, (4) Treatment, (5) Training and (6) Pain Relief - identified cancer pain relief as a priority activity in 1989. It was the first activity that led the way to the Outreach Patient Services (the Hospice-At-Home Concept), pioneered by the PCS.
Under HB 5321, the National Cancer Authority (short name) shall replace and absorb the National Cancer Institute of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) and the personnel and functions pertaining the Department of Health.
"At present, there is a low cancer prevention and consciousness rate in the country and most cancer patients seek consultation only at advanced stages," Paquiz lamented.
Thus, the author stressed that the goal is to establish and maintain a system that integrates scientific progress and its practical applications into a comprehensive program that will reduce cancer morbidity and mortality in the Philippines.
The National Cancer Authority is mandated, among other vital mandates, to be the specialized multidisciplinary and comprehensive research and development, dissemination and/or utilization of the results of research and development including the formulation, updating and implementation of a comprehensive cancer control program with the aim of overcoming cancer.
Likewise, the Authority shall be the national referral and coordinating center for cancer patients from the regional cancer centers as well as referrals from individual and other organizations, and to promote evidence-based multidisciplinary early detection, screening, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.