Manila, Philippines – At the Manila Diamond Hotel, a multi-stakeholder gathering was held the launch Cancer Game Plan PH – a movement as well as an advocacy to firmly respond to the growing threat and impact of cancer to Filipino patients. Its aims are to help arm patients with the necessary resources for them to effectively fight the third leading dreaded cause of morbidity and mortality in the Philippines.
It is an unfortunate real scenario in the country that there is at present a low cancer prevention consciousness and most cancer patients seek consultation only at advanced stages. Thus, the 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.
During the event, it stressed five strong points in helping address the cancer situation in the country and these are:
First, patients and family members who have cancer patients must keep an open mind for new therapies and treatments such as immunotherapy that addresses a greater body of cancers, effectively helping many patients in their journey to be better.
Cancer Game Plan PH is an expanded plan stemming from last year’s ‘Hope from Within’ campaign. It is geared to systematically change the face of disease care by highlighting existing targeted therapies and breakthrough new treatments such as immunotherapy. It addresses a greater body of cancers, effectively helping many patients in their journey to be better. Included in its scope of expansion, Cancer Game Plan PH had particular included lung cancer: melanoma, head and neck, gastric, bladder, and Hodgkin lymphoma types of cancers. What is the important is to discover the eligibility for treatment through proper testing methods and expert recommendations.
Second, if necessary, approach the government for additional financial help. Dr. Clarito Cairo, the Cancer Program Manager of the DOH, also 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.
A melanoma survivor Danny Dimabuyu was a previous face of the Hope from Within Campaign 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). Currently, PCSO extends these benefits to eligible patients; and the PhilHealth, through its Z Benefit Packages, provides financial assistance for certain types of cancers.
Third is to empower cancer patients by managing their communication, health, and emotional needs throughout their journey. According to Fatima ‘Girlie’ Lorenzo, president of Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO), 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 Philippine Society of Medical Oncologists (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.
Fourth point is to secure the future with a life insurance if one can afford it. Health insurance packages may help individuals and families prepare for the unforeseen effects of the disease; not necessarily a must. Lirio Torres, head of the accident and health group of Sun Life Insurance shared and explained the benefits of acquiring health insurance packages that may help individuals and families prepare for the unforeseen effects of the disease by making them more secured in their journey. It can somehow lessen or provide coverages that can help in the patient’s treatment or recovering process.
Lastly, listen to people who know better. It is the best option rather than relying on one’s instinct or from hearsays from friends and relatives who have preconceived and not-too clear knowledge about one’s condition. It is best to connect with people who went through cancer[s] and survived as well as those who are medically knowledgeable about one’s health concern. At the event itself, audience were introduced to names like which notably included television personality Susan Africa, who personally took on as a caregiver to her late actor-husband Spanky Manikan; 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 Mr. Dimabuyu.
Together with the newly-introduced Cancer Game Plan PH influencers, the representatives from the Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO), Philippine Society of Medical Oncologists (PSMO), Sun Life Insurance Corporation, and Cancer Coalition of the Philippines (CCP) were also in attendance to provide a diverse set of clear perspectives on the advocacy and the plan.
The gathering was moderated by Diego Castro, long-time lung cancer ambassador and a face of the Hope From Within: Test, Talk, Take Action campaign.
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 Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp (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.