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Milestones in cancer care are lifelines for Filipino patients |

Health And Family

Milestones in cancer care are lifelines for Filipino patients

BROAD CAST - Jing Castañeda -
Milestones in cancer care are lifelines for Filipino patients
Photo with other cancer champions at the Philippine National Cancer Summit 2024.

Cancer casts a long shadow over public health in the Philippines, constituting a significant portion of the nation's disease burden. 

Statistics reveal a troubling reality: breast cancer ranks as the most prevalent form among women, while lung cancer holds this dubious distinction among men. Alarmingly, a majority of breast cancer cases – reportedly about 65% – are diagnosed in advanced stages due to barriers to early detection and treatment, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to combat this disease.

Early detection emerges as a crucial lifeline in the fight against cancer, offering a myriad of benefits ranging from increased treatment success rates to improved quality of life for patients. Early-stage cancers may be treatable with less aggressive procedures, leading to better long-term outcomes and quicker recovery for the patient, often meaning less debilitating side effects from treatment, and better quality of life for the patients, during and after treatment. 

It is also widely agreed that timely intervention not only enhances the efficacy of treatment but also mitigates the financial strain associated with managing advanced-stage cancer. However, realizing these benefits hinges upon fostering cancer literacy and ensuring widespread access to screening services.

2024 Philippine National Cancer Summit highlights NICCA implementation

Against this backdrop of urgency, the 2024 Philippine National Cancer Summit shone a spotlight on the implementation of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) as a landmark public health law, and a beacon of hope for Filipino cancer patients and their families. 

(L-R) Phil. Cancer Commission Chairman Dr. Ramy Roxas, DILG Sec. Benjamin Abalos Jr., and Philippine Cancer Head Dr. Alfonso Nunez III at the opening of the Philippine National Cancer Summit 2024.

The theme of the summit, “Advancing Integrated Cancer Care Systems for the Filipino,” echoed the sentiments of countless individuals affected by cancer across the country. It underscored the urgent need to align efforts with the goals set forth by NICCA, a landmark legislation enacted on Feb. 14, 2019. 

This act isn't just a piece of paper; it's a lifeline for many, offering a comprehensive framework to ensure the availability of quality and affordable cancer care services.

Key provisions within NICCA underscore its commitment to bolstering cancer control efforts: the National Integrated Cancer Control Program will be put in place to serve as the framework for all government cancer control activities, according to the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.

The act also mandates the creation of the Philippine Cancer Center, a central hub for cancer care, research, and training for medical professionals, as well as facilitating the Cancer Assistance Fund to support the fight against cancer of Filipinos, particularly those who are underprivileged. 

One notable provision of the NICCA, highlighted during the summit, is the mandate for continuous breast cancer campaigns. These campaigns are instrumental in increasing cancer literacy, dispelling myths, combating false claims, and reducing the anxiety and fear often associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment.

From establishing a centralized hub for cancer care and research to providing financial assistance for underprivileged patients, NICCA embodies a holistic approach to addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by cancer.

Voices and perspectives on cancer care

The summit served as a forum for diverse stakeholders to converge, exchange insights, and chart a collective path forward in the fight against cancer. Notable voices, including government officials and healthcare leaders, underscored the imperative of collaborative action and community engagement in implementing NICCA's mandates.

In a poignant keynote address from Department of Health Secretary Teodoro “Ted” Herbosa, read by Philippine Cancer Center Head Dr. Alfonso Nunez III, the significance of accessible screening was brought to the forefront. 

“Central to our national cancer strategy is the early and regular screening measures such as sparing sufficient time for regular physical checkups. That includes breast examination, specifically mammograms, cervical screening, and many more,” Herbosa noted. 

(Center) Cong. Jude Acidre (Tingog Partylist Representative) commits to bringing government aid and services closer to people with cancer.

“Early detection saves lives by enabling timely interventions when treatment outcomes are most favorable.”

Dr. Manuel Francisco “Ramy” Roxas, chairperson of the Philippine College of Surgeons Cancer Commission Foundation (PCS CanCom), emphasized the collaborative nature of the summit. Bringing together stakeholders from various sectors, the event aimed to improve cancer care through a "whole of society" approach. 

This approach recognizes that combating cancer requires concerted efforts from government agencies, healthcare professionals, civil society organizations, and the private sector.

Cancer care initiatives at the local level

The role of local government units (LGUs) in implementing healthcare policies cannot be overstated. Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos, Jr. highlighted the critical role of LGUs in integrating national guidelines with local needs, calling stakeholders in the private and public sector to “sit down, look at the capacity of each, harmonize everything, and do a master plan. That is what I commit to this group that we're going to do.” 

Benhur’s commitment to devising a unified plan for cancer care is admirable, and I hope it bears fruit at the local level, and reflects the NICCA’s goal to ensure that no Filipino is left behind in the fight against cancer.

At the grassroots level, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte shared insights into her city's efforts to localize NICCA. “The city government can allocate a more significant amount of resources kapag mayroon na tayong local version of the national law. Hopefully, this can be done by the second quarter of this year,” she said.

Her commitment to allocating resources and developing comprehensive cancer care programs demonstrates the proactive approach necessary to address the challenges posed by cancer at the community level.

I believe in the sincerity of their advocacies. For these two public servants, the fight against cancer must be a personal one. Mayor Joy’s mother, the brilliant journalist Betty Go-Belmonte – a media luminary that I have always looked up to – lost her life to cancer, while Benhur himself is a cancer survivor.

(Center) Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte pledges additional funding for cancer care for QCitizens

Cancer literacy is a powerful ally

The 2024 Philippine National Cancer Summit wasn't just a conference; it was a call to action. It served as a vital platform for collaboration, innovation, and advocacy, aiming to change the landscape of cancer treatment and management in the Philippines.

At the heart of this concerted effort lies the crucial role of cancer literacy and education. It empowers individuals like us with knowledge to recognize warning signs, make informed decisions, and dispel misconceptions surrounding cancer. Moreover, cancer literacy serves as a catalyst for preventive measures, fostering healthier lifestyles and driving participation in screening programs.

Art therapy as vital component of healing.

By harnessing the transformative power of early detection, fostering collaboration among stakeholders, and prioritizing cancer literacy, we chart a course towards a future where cancer ceases to be a formidable adversary. 

I commend the public servants and healthcare experts that are leading us in the fight against cancer, helping us, and our family and loved ones, to be resilient and empowered in the face of adversity.


Watch Pamilya Talk on Facebook and YouTube (@JingCastaneda – 12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. Monday & Wednesday). You can also follow my social media accounts: InstagramFacebookYouTubeTiktok and Twitter.  Please share your stories or suggest topics at

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