Due to the growing threat and impact of cancer to Filipino patients, a multi-stakeholder gathering was recently held in Manila to launch Cancer Game Plan PH, a movement as well as an advocacy that aims to help arm patients with the necessary resources for them to effectively fight the dreaded disease.
The advocacy has these pillars: promotion of early detection through testing, 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.
Stemming from last year’s Hope from Within campaign, the Cancer Game Plan PH is geared to systematically change the face of disease care – highlighting existing targeted therapies and breakthrough new treatments – such as immunotherapy – that address a greater body of cancers, effectively helping many patients in their journey.
Cancer Game Plan PH expands this scope in particular to include, in addition to lung cancer: melanoma, head and neck, gastric, bladder, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Providing a diverse set of clear perspectives on the advocacy and the plan were representatives from the Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO), Philippine Society of Medical Oncologists (PSMO), Sunlife Insurance Corporation, and Cancer Coalition of the Philippines (CCP), together with the newly-introduced Cancer Game Plan PH influencers.
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. Castro introduced his co-Cancer Game Plan PH influencers, among them, television personality Susan Africa, 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 melanoma survivor Danny Dimabuyu.
Dimabuyu, a previous face of the Hope from Within Campaign, has 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).
Collaborative Support From Experts
The formal discussions were opened by Dr. Clarito Cairo, Cancer Program Manager of the DOH. A staunch advocate in the fight against cancer, Dr. Cairo 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. He referenced the plans in the DOH cancer road map, which include broader coverage of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) Z Benefit package.
Fatima “Girlie” Lorenzo, President of PAPO, then spoke on the stages of the patient’s 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.
Dr. Herdee Luna, Multimedia Committee Associate of PSMO, then cited the collaborative work between teams of medical experts 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. She closed her portion of the discussion by sharing on the new treatment options available in the Philippines, such as immunotherapy, and the importance of discovering eligibility for the treatment through proper testing methods and expert recommendations.
The discussion on the cost of cancer treatment resurfaced during the gathering, as a recurring challenge for both patients and caregivers. As therapies have significant costs attached to them, the imperative then is for policymakers and leaders to provide better support systems that make access more affordable
-especially to those who most need it. Currently, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO)extends these benefits to eligible patients; and PhilHealth, through its Z Benefit Packages, provides financial assistance for certain types of cancers.
Lirio Torres, Head of the Accident and Health Group of Sun Life Insurance, built on this portion of the discussion by explaining the benefits of acquiring health insurance packages that may help individuals and families prepare for the unforeseen effects of the disease – making them more secured in their journey.
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.
The Cancer Game Plan PH influencers then shared personal stories that put a fiercer spotlight on the importance of a proper and reliable support system in the cancer patient journey. As appointed official members of PAPO, these influencers now form part of the movement to proactively fight cancer.
In closing, Allan Ancheta, Oncology Business Unit Lead of 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 made a ceremonial gesture to emphasize the deepened and expanded commitment to fight cancer, in the mission to save more lives.