As of 2018, eleven new cancer cases are recorded every day in the Philippines. According to the Cancer Coalition of the Philippines, this grim picture only indicates that cancer is a serious health concern and it is growing at a rapid rate. Cancer affects not only the patient but the family and society as well.
Dealing with the dreaded disease
Dealing with the physical effects of cancer is one thing while the emotional burden it brings is another. The patient will experience a wide range of emotions and feelings that can easily change daily, hourly or even in just a matter of minutes.
These emotions can range from denial, anger, fear, worry, stress, anxiety, depression, guilt, loneliness, and being overwhelmed by the situation to feeling hopeful, determined and grateful. Each patient has various coping mechanisms. However, the support of their loved ones, friends, other cancer patients and survivors, and medical professionals can help them fight this disease.
Most common cancers among Filipinos
According to the Department of Health’s Philippine Cancer Control Program, here are the most common cancer among Filipinos.
- Lung Cancer – People who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer, though it can also occur in people who are exposed to second-hand smoke or have a history of lung cancer in the family.
- Liver Cancer – Primary liver cancer tends to occur in damage caused by birth defects, alcohol abuse, chronic infection with diseases such as hepatitis B and C, and cirrhosis.
- Colon Cancer – Colorectal cancer encompasses cancer in the colon, rectum or both. This is highly treatable if detected early. Most colorectal cancers develop first as polyps, which are abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum that may later become cancerous if not removed.
- Prostate Cancer (for males) – Prostate cancer affects the prostate gland, the gland that produces some of the fluid in the semen and plays a role in urine control in men. Regular screening helps detect prostate cancer early and at this stage would still be highly treatable.
- Head and Neck Cancers – These are a group of cancers that starts in the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, sinuses, or salivary glands. Symptoms for head and neck cancer may include a lump or sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, trouble swallowing, or a change in the voice. There may also be unusual bleeding, facial swelling, or trouble breathing.
- Leukemia – This is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. Leukemia begins in a cell in the bone marrow. Once the marrow cell undergoes a leukemic change, the leukemia cells may grow and survive better than normal cells. Different forms of leukemia have different treatment options.
- Breast Cancer (for females) – This is most common cancer among women. Symptoms include a lump or thickening of the breast, and changes to the skin or the nipple. Women are encouraged to do self breast examination, mammography, or they should visit their physician should there be early symptoms observed.
- Cervical Cancer (for females) – This is a type of cancer arising from the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Ninety-nine percent of cervical cancer cases are caused by human papillomavirus.
- Ovarian Cancer (for females) – Most ovarian cancers start in the epithelium, or outer lining, of the ovary. Early symptoms of ovarian cancer may include pain in the pelvis or the lower abdomen.
Financial burden of cancer
The Philippines, being a third world country, has limited programs for healthcare. As a result, when a patient is diagnosed with cancer, the first concern is the cost of treatment and care. This is a sad reality because many patients often keep silent and suffer in pain because they understand the financial capability of their family.
In the 2012 ASEAN Costs in Oncology (ACTION) study conducted by the George Institute for Global Health, the patients and their families tried different ways to raise money to support medical treatment. If the patient has savings, this would be depleted during the initial treatment process. When more financial support is needed, properties and other assets are sold to generate cash. For the duration of the treatment, the patient and their family fell into debt.
Cancer Treatment Options
Each cancer case is unique. As a result, each patient may receive different cancer treatments depending on the type of cancer, progress of the disease and the patient’s medical history. These are the available cancer treatments for patients:
- Surgery – This procedure allows for the removal of cancer from the body. But this is not the ultimate cancer treatment. Often, surgery is combined with other therapies to kill cancer cells that may recur.
- Radiation Therapy – This type of therapy uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumor.
- Chemotherapy – This uses oral or intravenous (IV) infusion therapy to kill cancer cells.
- Targeted Therapy – This treatment targets the change in cancer cells that let them grow, divide and spread.
- Hormone Therapy – This therapy slows or stops the growth of hormone- dependent cancer cells, such as some types of breast and prostate cancer.
- Immunotherapy – This helps your immune system fight cancer; hence, there is less damage to healthy cells as compared to chemotherapy in the process of eliminating tumour cells. In the Philippines, immunotherapy is gaining positive feedback from patients who had cancers of the lung, head and neck, and skin.
Cancer remains a national health priority in the Philippines with significant implications for individuals, families, communities and the national health system. Early screening is one of the best ways to help prevent and treat this disease.
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