2nd ‘Cancer Conversations’ series tackles concerted efforts to enhance cancer care amid the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond

cancer conversations

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.

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