Cancer has taken lives of family, friends, and professors that are close to my heart. This growing threat chooses no one, and I personally can’t help but feel the pain all over again whenever I remember how I saw them trying to fight this unexpected disease. It’s about time that we look for ways on how to fight back with. As a firm response to the growing impact of cancer to Filipino patients, a multi-stakeholder gathering was held last Friday (July 20, 2018) in Manila to publicly launch Cancer Game Plan PH – a movement ,as well as an advocacy, that aims to help arm patients with the necessary resources for them to effectively fight Cancer.
Pillars of the advocacy include the promotion of early detection through testing, the building of solid support systems that address patient needs from the onset, as well as increasing access to treatments which oftentimes cannot be availed of due to their costly nature.
An expanded plan stemming from last year’s Hope from Within campaign, the Cancer Game Plan PH is geared to systematically change the face of disease care – highlighting existing targeted therapies and breakthrough new treatments – such as immunotherapy – that address a greater body of cancers, effectively helping many patients in their journey to be better.
Cancer Game Plan PH expands this scope in particular to include, in addition to lung cancer: melanoma, head and neck, gastric, bladder, and Hodgkin lymphoma types of cancers. To provide a diverse set of clear perspectives on the advocacy and the plan, representatives were present from the Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO), Philippine Society of Medical Oncologists (PSMO), Sunlife Insurance Corporation, and Cancer Coalition of the Philippines (CCP), together with the newly-introduced Cancer Game Plan PH influencers.
The gathering was moderated by Diego Castro, a long-time lung cancer ambassador and the face of the Hope From Within: Test, Talk, Take Action campaign. Castro facilitated the introduction of his co-Cancer Game Plan PH influencers, which notably include television personality Susan Africa; medical oncologist and Kaalaman at Katotohanan Tungkol sa Kanser (KKK) Facebook community founder Dr. Meredith Garcia; multi-sport athlete and cancer survivor Louie Sangalang; Occupational Medicine specialist and breast cancer survivor Dr. Gia Sison, and melanoma survivor Danny Dimabuyu.
Dimabuyu was a previous face of the Hope from Within Campaign and has shared his experience in battling cancer on various occasions, highlighting in particular how he was able to benefit from immunotherapy through the assistance of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
The formal discussions were opened by Dr. Clarito Cairo, Cancer Program Manager of the DOH. Dr. Cairo – a staunch advocate in the fight against cancer – gave his expert overview and analysis on the burden of cancer in the Philippines and how the government has been seeking better alternatives to give better support to patients. He referenced the plans in the DOH cancer road map, which include broader coverage of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) Z Benefit package.
Dr. Cairo then turned over the session to Fatima “Girlie” Lorenzo, President of PAPO, who shared and elaborated on the stages of the patient journey in the context of cancer care. Ms. Lorenzo provided a clear grounding of the situation, painstakingly going through each emotion, consideration, and burden that a patient experiences during the whole process – thereby stressing the urgent need for a “cancer game plan” that would address these factors effectively and sustainably.
Together with Dr. Herdee Luna, Multimedia Committee Associate of PSMO, Ms. Lorenzo reiterated the vital significance of empowering cancer patients – giving them real options and solutions, through collaborative actions and initiatives.
Dr. Luna then cited the work between teams of medical experts as an example of this, saying that they have key roles to play in improving overall survival rates of patients – as they have distinct and integral functions in the ecosystem of cancer care. She closed her portion of the discussion by sharing on the new treatment options available in the Philippines, such as immunotherapy, and the importance of discovering eligibility for the treatment through proper testing methods and expert recommendations.
The discussion on the cost of cancer treatment resurfaced during the gathering, as a recurring challenge for both patients and caregivers. As therapies have significant costs attached to them, the imperative then is on policymakers and leaders to provide better support systems that make access more affordable – especially to those who most need it. Currently, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) extends these benefits to eligible patients; and the PhilHealth, through its Z Benefit Packages, provides financial assistance for certain types of cancers.
Lirio Torres, Head of the Accident and Health Group of Sun Life Insurance built on this portion of the discussion by sharing and explaining the benefits of acquiring health insurance packages that may help individuals and families prepare for the unforeseen effects of the disease – making them more secured in their journey.
To cover existing movements and initiatives that aim to improve care and services for cancer patients, Paul Perez of the Cancer Coalition of the Philippines provided updates on the cancer bill, a body of work that proposes an integrated, multi-disciplinary, nationwide cancer control and management program.
The program is intended to enhance the response capacity for all types of cancers, to provide high-quality, adequately sourced medicines and services for patients and their families.
After Mr. Perez’ sharing, Cancer Game Plan PH influencers shared personal stories that put a fiercer spotlight on the importance of a proper and reliable support system in the cancer patient journey. These influencers were also appointed as official members of PAPO – and as such, now form part of the movement to proactively fight cancer. They committed to lend their voices and credibility to drive discussions that will lead to concrete actions.
As a further testament to the advocacy, Allan Ancheta, Oncology Business Unit Lead of MSD in the Philippines announced the formal launch of the Cancer Game Plan PH social media platforms to encourage more stakeholders to be involved in the cause. Mr. Ancheta, alongside the influencers, ambassadors, and advocates, then closed the gathering with a ceremonial gesture to emphasize the deepened and expanded commitment to fight cancer, in the mission to save more lives.
We do hope that these small steps will eventually lead us to save lives in the future! For more updates on the latest happenings within the Metro, follow Manila Millennial on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.