Increasing cancer awareness can decrease the number of cancer-related deaths in the country, according to Health Secretary Enrique Ona.
“It is so important to raise cancer awareness and scale up our efforts to provide all Filipinos with accurate information and hopefully to control the numbers from increasing the way it is right now,” Ona said.
According to him, cancer-related deaths may reach 85,000 this year. This figure may double in the next decade unless public awareness on cancer and non-commutable diseases (NCD) in general is heightened.
The World Health Organization defines NCD as a disease that is not passed from person to person, of long duration and generally has slow progression. It’s four main types are cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer.
According to WHO, 712 in 100,000 Filipinos succumbed to NCDs in 2008, which accounted for 61 percent of deaths in the country during that year. Of the 712, 99 were due to cancer.
Increasing information and awareness, continuing education for the public and the department’s personnel, and the “utilization of early detection through risk assessment and screening” of the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of care are among the programs that the Department of Health (DOH) is currently implementing to address the rise of cancer cases.
He added that the passage of RA 1035 or the Sin Tax Reform Law may also help reduce the statistics because the law aims to curb smoking and alcohol consumption.
“We probably need another year or two to really look into the effect of the increase in taxes for cigarette and even for alcohol,” he said.
The WHO said that smoking was one of the two most common behavioral risk factors for NCDs among Filipinos in 2008, the other one being physical inactivity.
Ona said that among Filipinos, the least informed about these risk factors are the poor and the near-poor. He said that since the DOH is stepping up its information dissemination efforts, public awareness about deadly diseases will increase.
He added that if cancer cases will not decrease by at least two percent every year, yearly decrease, the government will put up nine chemotherapy centers nationwide.
“Saying that for example, cancer of the breast is a disease of the poor is not really true. However, fortunately among those who can afford, it is early diagnosis that matters the most, and among others that is one reason why the Department of Health has decided to stop this [the number of NCD cases from rising]within the next few years or very, very soon we will start the bidding for the construction of nine oncology centers all over the Philippines,” Ona said.
He said the project might cost around P3 billion but it will be implemented through th public-private partnership (PPP). He added that through their Z Package system, they will be able to identify the reasonable costs for treatment so that qualified patients will no longer have to travel to Metro Manila, Metro Cebu or Metro Davao where chemo centers are available.