Coming on the heels of the celebration of World Cancer Day, the Cancer Coalition Philippines (CCPh), members of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), as well as the Department of Health (DOH), joined hands to inspire action for a cancer-free future through a series of online forums aimed at mapping the path forward to strengthen cancer control in the Philippines.
The first of the series, “Cancer Conversations: Navigating Cancer with Patients,” centered on discussions on the plight of cancer patients and their families during the pandemic, and how they could access crucial information, funding and healthcare. The forum also highlighted the importance of the full implementation of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) in providing quality, affordable, and accessible healthcare to all cancer patients.
In the second series, “Cancer Conversations: From Policy to Meaningful Action,” picks up on the policies and programs under NICCA that will help address gaps in the current continuum of cancer care, help better facilitate cancer treatment, and eliminate the various challenges on patients, people living with cancer, survivors, and their families.
“The National Integrated Cancer Control Act is a milestone for all cancer patients and their families. Major progress has been made, but there are also areas that require our concerted action. For example, we need to be assured that the Cancer Assistance Fund would be sustainably funded according to patient needs. We aspire for better cancer care now through the full implementation of the NICCA so that we could protect patients and their families from the long-term impact of the pandemic on the vulnerable,” CCPh President and Project: Brave Kids founder Mr. Paul Perez remarked.
According to Mr. Perez, cancer screening, care and treatment has been disrupted mainly due to fears of COVID-19 exposure. For the majority of cancer patients who lack financial capacity, treatments were discontinued because funding assistance were also halted.
The CCPh is composed of I Can Serve Foundation, Philippine Cancer Society, Cancer Warriors Foundation, Philippine Society of Oncologists, Project: Brave Kids, Carewell Community Foundation, and the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology.
The NICCA aims to alleviate the burden of cancer to patients and promote survivorship. To address a major issue in cancer-treatment funding, the NICCA sought to establish a Cancer Assistance Fund. The DOH may also solicit and receive donations to augment funding for cancer. The law likewise required PhilHealth to expand its benefit packages for cancer to include not only treatment but also screening, rehabilitation, pain management, and palliative care.
The law mandates the establishment of comprehensive specialty cancer centers to make diagnosis and treatment more accessible to all Filipinos. The centers will provide medical facilities, accommodation, and services while fostering fertile ground for cancer-treatment- related research and training for scientists and healthcare professionals.
“Long before the pandemic, cancer patients and their families have always had a lot of unmet needs. The pandemic exacerbated this desperation. There is less access, less funding. This is coupled by the fact that many patients are afraid to visit the hospital to resume their treatments or their annual checkups because of the pandemic scare. Sadly we will be seeing
more advance, harder- to- treat cancers. We’re also missing a lot of opportunity for early cancer screening. The World Health Organization projects that in less than ten years, there could be an 80% increase in cancer incidence globally,” said Ms Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, CCPh Vice President and founding president of ICanServe Foundation.
“We urgently need the creation of the National Integrated Cancer Control Council, which will function as the policymaking, planning and coordinating body on cancer control. We are deeply committed to working with the government, all stakeholders especially the cancer community, for better cancer care now,” she added.
“Cancer by itself is a complex global and national challenge. No one sector could effectively respond to this enormous task of controlling cancer and supporting patients throughout their journey. Apart from research and development, PHAP members are engaged in a number of health partnerships to address barriers to cancer care. We are committed to collaborations with the Department of Health, the Cancer Coalition Philippines, and the healthcare community in protecting patients and their families from the catastrophic impact of this enemy disease through the National Integrated Cancer Control Act,” said PHAP Executive Director Mr. Teodoro Padilla said.
Ms Chiqui Roa-Puno will moderate the forum coming from her advocacy and experience as one of the principal authors, and sponsor of the NICCA. The forum will feature topics such as the Status of NICCA Implementation and Planned Forward Initiatives by DOH Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, and the Index of Cancer Preparedness report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) to be presented by its Editorial Director, Mr. Charles Goddard.
Also providing messages are Ms Julie Torode, Deputy CEO and Director of Advocacy and Networks for Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and Committee on Health chairperson Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.
The forum will also have three sessions: Session 1 will provide a snapshot of insights and policy implications of NICCA with former health secretary Manuel Dayrit as moderator. He will be joined by Rep. Alfred D. Vargas (5th District, Quezon City), Dr. Corazon Ngelangel, President of Philippine Cancer Society, Philippine College of Surgeon-Cancer Commission Chairman Dr. Manuel Francisco T. Roxas, DOH Program Manager for Cancer Dr. Clarito Cairo, and CCPh Vice President Ms Carmen Auste.
Session 2 will dive into Responsive LGU Programs for Cancer Patients with Galing Pook Executive Director Ms Georgina Hernandez-Yang as moderator. She will be joined by League of Provinces of the Philippines National Chairman Gov. Dakila Carlo E. “Dax” Cua, Rep. Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon (Muntinlupa City), and Dr. Mae C. Dolendo, Lead Pediatric Oncologist of Southern Philippines Medical Center.
Session 3 will discuss Sustainable Financing for Cancer Control and Care with Thinkwell Senior Technical Adviser Dr. Marife Yap as moderator. In the panel will be International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)- Section of Cancer Surveillance Health Economist Dr. Filip Meheus, Health Policy Development Program University of the Philippines-School of Economics Chief of Party Dr. Carlo Irwin A. Panelo, and PhilHealth Acting Senior Manager of Benefits Development and Research Department Dr. Mary Antonette Y. Remonte.
This forum is also being supported by PHAP Members namely MSD, Pfizer, Roche, Takeda, Boehringer Ingelheim, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson with support from ANC (ABS-CBN News Channel), BusinessMirror, BusinessWorld, and The Philippines Graphic.