“The core of the National Cancer Prevention and Control Action Plan is changing people’s behaviors, as cancer risk factors are a result of people’s incorrect attitudes toward cigarettes and tobacco, alcohol, and food”
Cancer, the world’s leading cause of death, is now the third foremost cause of death nationwide, with lung cancer ranking number one in mortality, according to medical authorities.
Dr. Rosario Pitargue, Philippine Society of Medical Oncology president, has noted there are 184 cases diagnosed in 100,000 patients recently and that 96 deaths related to cancer are reported daily.
Worldwide, approximately 10 million mortalities were recorded in 2020, accounting for nearly one in every six deaths.
Cancers in the lung, breast, colon, rectum, and prostate are common cancers, according to 2021 figures from the World Health Organization.
Cancer in all its forms accounts for 0.25 percent of total mortality in Region 12 (Soccsksargen), Department of Health data from 2015 to 2019 showed.
“In terms of death, lung [cancer] would be followed by liver, breast, colon and prostate,” Dr. Pitargue said during a media form on the sidelines of the National Cancer Summit.
Healthy Pilipinas co-convener Ralph Degollacion said environment is a contributor to cancer diagnosis, and it includes smoking, alcoholic intake, poor diet, and lack of physical activities.
When it comes to cancer diagnosis, Cancer Coalition Philippines vice president Carmen Auste said there are hindrances which come from the patients themselves, the medical field, and the government.
There is the lack of knowledge on the signs and symptoms of cancer among the patients and medical practitioners, she added.
Moreover, the system or referral pathway from the rural health units to the hospitals also needs improvements.
Citing that cancer is no longer a “death sentence,” Pitargue explained that survivorship covers the health and well-being of cancer patients that starts from the diagnosis, throughout the treatment, and beyond the treatment or until the rest of life.
There is an existing law, Republic Act 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act,signed in February 2019, aimed at boosting cancer control efforts, improving cancer survivorship and reducing the burden among cancer patients.
Members of patient support organizations belonging to Cancer Coalition Philippines helped craft the law, with inputs from medical societies, professional organizations, and the civil society.
Given this development, the government developed the National Cancer Prevention and Control Action Plan (NCPCAP) 2015-2020 through the Department of Health and its partner agencies in response to the growing and unsettling cancer epidemic.
This action plan addresses cancer prevention and rehabilitation through policy and standard development, advocacy and promotion, capacity building and resource mobilization, service delivery, research and development, and information management and surveillance.
The core of NCPCAP is changing people’s behaviors, as cancer risk factors are a result of people’s incorrect attitudes toward cigarettes and tobacco, alcohol, and food.
According to the Food and Drug Administration’s data, tobacco use accounts for one-third of all cancer deaths in the Philippines.
A population-based analysis using Body Mass Index and cancer incidence data from GLOBOCAN 2020 revealed that overweight and obesity contributed to 9.5 percent of new cancer cases.
GLOBOCAN 2020 is an online database providing global cancer statistics and estimates of incidence and mortality in 185 countries, including the Philippines, for 36 types of cancer, and for all cancer sites combined.
The government is hoping that by pursuing this course of action and interventions, the prevalence of cancer will gradually decline in the coming years.
However, the government underlines the war on cancer cannot be won unless people will help them by cessation in smoking, consuming alcohol in moderation, increasing physical activity, and eating in the appropriate quantity and variety.
Additionally, a study conducted by Harvard Medical Schools concluded there are 10 commandments for cancer prevention and that following them is the most cost-effective way to combat this most lethal disease.
To begin, abstain from all forms of tobacco and smoking, including exposure to secondhand smoke.
Second, eat healthily.
Consume less saturated fat and red meat, as these may increase your risk of colon cancer and a more aggressive form of prostate cancer.
Third, exercise on a regular basis.
Exercise has been linked to a decreased risk of colon cancer.
Fourth, it is necessary to maintain ideal body weight.
Obesity increases the risk of developing a variety of cancers.
Fifth, keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.
Excess alcohol consumption increases the risk of mouth, larynx (voice box), esophagus (food pipe), liver, and colon cancers, as well as the risk of breast cancer in women.
Sixth, avoid unnecessary radiation exposure.
Request medical imaging studies only when necessary.
Seventh, avoid occupational and environmental toxins.
Eighth, avoid infections that contribute to cancer, such as hepatitis, HIV, and HPV.
Ninth, prioritize sleep.
Finally, but certainly not the least, obtain an adequate amount of vitamin D. Numerous experts now recommend between 800 and 1,000 IU per day.
(The author, a former university professorial lecturer in journalism, logic and literature, is a freelance writer.)