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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Multi-stakeholder group launches new cancer game plan

In response to the growing threat and impact of cancer to Filipino patients, a multi-stakeholder gathering was held recently to publicly launch a movement to help arm patients with the necessary resources for them to effectively fight the dreaded disease.

BEST FRIENDS OF THE FOREST. The Best Friends of the Forest Movement, launched in March 2018, gathers a community of young, action-oriented environmentalists, travelers, social entrepreneurs, and artists who aim to inspire people to be advocates of forest conservation and protection.

An expanded plan 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 to be better.

Cancer Game Plan PH expands this scope, in particular, to include, in addition to lung cancer, melanoma, head and neck, gastric, bladder, and Hodgkin lymphoma types of cancer. 

To provide a diverse set of clear perspectives on the advocacy and the plan, representatives were present from the Department of Health, Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations, Philippine Society of Medical Oncologists, Sun Life Insurance Corporation, and Cancer Coalition of the Philippines, together with the newly introduced Cancer Game Plan PH influencers. 

Cancer Game Plan PH influencers include longtime lung cancer ambassador and the face of Hope From Within: Test, Talk, Take Action campaign Diego Castro, television personality Susan Africa, medical oncologist and Kaalaman at Katotohanan Tungkol sa Kanser 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 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.

Dr. Clarito Cairo, cancer program manager of the DOH and 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.

He referenced the plans in the DOH cancer roadmap, which include broader coverage of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s Z Benefit package.

PAPO president Fatima “Girlie” Lorenzo, meanwhile, shared and elaborated on the stages of a patient’s journey in the context of cancer care. Lorenzo provided a clear grounding of the situation, painstakingly going through each emotion, consideration, and burden that a patient experiences during the whole process.

Together with Dr. Herdee Luna, multimedia committee associate of PSMO, 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, underscoring their distinct and integral functions in the ecosystem of cancer care. She also shared 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 cost of cancer treatment being a recurring challenge for both patients and caregivers was also discussed. As therapies have significant costs attached to them, it is imperative for policymakers and leaders to provide better support systems that make access more affordable, especially to those who most need it. 

Currently, the PCSO extends these benefits to eligible patients; and the PhilHealth, through its Z Benefit Packages, provides financial assistance for certain types of cancers. 

Cancer Game Plan PH ambassadors emphasize the importance of having a proper and reliable support system in the cancer patient journey.

As a further testament to the advocacy, 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.  

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