LUNG CANCER STIGMA. Oncologist Dr. Denky Shoji dela Rosa says lung cancer is not a hopeless case and tests to check for genetic mutations is available in the Philippines and should be standard for all those diagnosed with lung cancer, during the round table discussion at Edsa Shangri-la Hotel in Mandaluyong City on Tuesday (Oct. 30, 2018). (PNA photo by Jess M. Escaros Jr.)
MANILA -- Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among Filipinos yet many are unaware of the best practices on treating and preventing it.
“The awareness to prevent it and the support for lung cancer patients and their loved ones is very low. We wanted to remove the stigma, the belief that most people who have it are hopeless cases and that there are no longer medical options for their afflictions,” AstraZeneca Philippines Medical Affairs head, Donald Josue, said at the launch of LVNG with Lung Cancer website in Mandaluyong City on Tuesday.
AstraZeneca Philippines is a global and science-led biopharmaceutical business that provides innovative medicines to patients worldwide.
It has partnered with the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology, Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations, and Cancer Coalition Philippines to create an online resource for cancer patients and their families.
Medical oncologist Marcelo Severino Imasa, one of the presenters at the event, said about 1.8 million cancer patients worldwide had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012 alone.
"Lung cancer has become a heavier burden in Third World countries. In the Philippines, lung cancer is second to breast cancer as (the) leading causes of cancer but it is ahead of breast cancer in terms of the most common cause of cancer death," he said.
Imasa said most lung cancer patients are diagnosed with the disease at stage three or four because it barely shows serious symptoms in the patients during the earlier stages. So the treatment of disease becomes more challenging.
Josue said they plan to activate a community of Filipinos living with cancer through the website, allowing them to connect and share their experiences.
"This community will embrace the patients as people in every step of their journey from simply coping to living with the disease. It is like a shared optimism that will break the negativity about lung cancer, and provide holistic support for both cancer patients and non-cancer patients," he said.
Josue added that the website aims to inform everyone that cancer is treatable and there are many ways to treat it.
"That's why we placed in it information or links to medical oncologists. These are doctors who specialize in cancer and not just general doctors. There's also a directory of laboratories where you can have your biomarker testing because that is a common question we get from people," he said.
The group's website, www.lvngph.com, will be formally launched on November 2m in line with the celebration of the Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Lung cancer is curable: expert says
Lung cancer is treatable, and chemotherapy is not the only way to cure it, a health expert said Tuesday.
“People can still be treated from lung cancer, but the treatment goals and management may depend on the stage, performance status, histology and molecular characteristic of the cancer. So those diagnosed with lung cancer should consult a medical oncologist to receive proper treatment,” Philippine Society of Medical Oncologists president Claire Soliman said during a roundtable discussion with the media in Mandaluyong City.
Soliman said lung cancer treatment is made possible by a team of specialists – medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists and pulmonologists.
“Some patients would say: 'I have lung cancer ayoko na magpagamot dahil chemotherapy lang ang solusyon'. That’s not true because people with stage 4 lung cancer can also receive anti-cancer medications. We have new drugs called targeted therapy known as ‘magic pill’ in layman’s term,” she said.
She said some patients can also receive local treatment like radiotherapy and surgery in some cases.
While the thought of inability to be resected or have the tumor removed scares some people who have lung cancer and their families. Soliman said patients with unresectable Stage 3 cancer can still be cured via immune therapy after concurrent chemotherapy and radiation.
“A recent study even showed that patients who have undergone these had longer survival compared to those who did not receive any immunotherapy,” she added.
While some cancer patients are claiming "miraculous healing" through alternative medicine, Soliman warned the public against depending on it as an exclusive means to treat lung cancer.
“It may help as a compliment to traditional treatment, but alternative medicine alone will not slow down the progression of the disease. A study showed patients who rely on herbal medicines alone as primary treatment for their curable cancers had greater risk of death compared to those who had surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormone therapy,” she said.
Soliman also warned lung cancer patients who continue to smoke, thinking that it would not harm them anymore as they already have the disease.
“People diagnosed with lung cancer who quit smoking have a lower risk of mortality compared to those who continue smoking after being diagnosed with cancer. Studies prove that smoking can damage your lungs even more. It can also harm your family and friends," she said. (PNA)