Battling lung cancer drains the physical, financial, emotional, and psychological capacity of patients and their families. Conventional medical procedure for lung cancer treatment involves a series of chemotherapy sessions, followed by oral medications, and follow-up diagnostic tests to monitor the patient’s response to treatment. All these can cost hundreds of thousands of pesos per month. While this process aims for the survival of the patient, the quality of life post-medication is an area often sacrificed.. With all these conditions, it is no wonder, patients tend to equate lung cancer diagnosis with a death sentence.
In 2018 alone, 17,255 Filipinos have been diagnosed with lung cancer; of these, 15,454 resulted in death. These numbers show that lung cancer is the second most common but the number one deadliest cancer among Filipino men and women.
In observance of Lung Cancer Awareness Month (LCAM), Hope From Within, a multi-stakeholder cancer advocacy campaign, brings good news: today’s lung cancer patients can fight better and look forward to enjoying more hopeful tomorrows with their loved ones!
Clinically proven, innovative treatment options for lung cancer such as Immunotherapy, are helping to redefine expectations amongst patients who are using this alone or in combination with chemotherapy, before or after surgery. Patients who received immunotherapy showed significant improvement in their quality of life, overall survival rate, increased progression-free survival, and manageable side effects.
“With immunotherapy, we need to reconsider the way we look at cancer treatment outcomes. We can say that we should not just keep our patients alive, we should keep them well enough to enjoy life with their family and friends”, said Dr. Gerardo Cornelio, Cancer Institute Director of St. Luke’s Medical Center.
Data-driven decisions and policies
Since immunotherapy is an innovative treatment, substantial data showcasing its impact on a patient’s life is critical to make this a viable option for physicians and patients, in lung cancer treatment and management.
Hope From Within recently launched the Cancer Game Plan Report (CGP), a health impact projection (HIP) model research, which uses local data sets to uncover the health impacts, budget impacts, and bring to light the potential benefits of innovative treatment options such as immunotherapy.
If immunotherapy can reach more patients, the HIP model shows that patients can enjoy significant additional life-years, progression-free life years, quality-adjusted life years, and avoidance of adverse events, overall leading to improved health gains of patients between five- and ten-fold. These promising results can make all the difference for patients and can bolster the preparedness of the Philippines as a whole in fighting lung cancer.
Hope From Within is also one with patient groups and medical societies in urging decision-makers to consider implementing these health outcomes in their upcoming health-related policies; likewise, to pursue and form the National Cancer Control Council in order to fully implement and fund the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA).
Prioritizing health care laws amid COVID-19
The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the NICCA were signed to help create statutory requirements to address and prioritize gaps in the current continuum of cancer care, and to integrate policies and programs for cancer prevention, detection, management, and survivorship. Along with the Universal Health Care (UHC), these help increase access to much-needed health services and funding while cushioning financial impact on the individual patient.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, health industry stakeholders urged Congress to ensure adequate funding for UHC and NICCA. Under the 2021 proposed budget of the Department of Health (DOH), PhP 542 million for cancer assistance under the NICCA is still waiting for approval of the Department of Budget Management (DBM).
The implementation and funding of NICCA plays a major role in giving cancer patients better, equitable, and affordable access to cancer treatment, which includes gaining access to the full cancer registry. If put into practice and given the right funding, it can help in addressing long-term sustainable access to innovative treatment options which can eventually add years to the life of patients suffering from cancer.
Hopeful tomorrows beyond lung cancer
As patients complete their lung cancer treatment, they may experience a range of emotions. They may be relieved that treatment is over but worry about the future. In some ways, this transition is one of the least understood aspects of the cancer experience.
Access to innovative treatments like immunotherapy allows patients to choose treatment options that will provide them with more hopeful tomorrows. Compared to chemotherapy, immunotherapy has more manageable side effects. Lung cancer patients can do their day-to-day function as a parent, spouse, sibling, attend to their work or business and not be limited because of their disease.
To know more about innovative treatment options and to join the conversation on how Filipino lung cancer patients can enjoy more hopeful tomorrows, please visit the Hope From Within website and Facebook page: https://hopefromwithin.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/Hopefromwithinph.
If you are a lung cancer patient, caregiver, or advocate, you can also join the Hope for Lung Cancer Facebook Group (https://bit.ly/HopeForLungGroup ) to be part of a community that shares experiences, pain points and insights to help one another fight cancer.