Better health care for cancer patients ensured as cancer law’s IRR signed

By Betheena Unite

Access to more responsive and affordable health care services for cancer patients in the Philippines is expected to be achieved as the implementing rules and regulations of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) has been signed.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III   (Photo by Jansen Romero/ MANILA BULLETIN FILE) Health Secretary Francisco Duque III
(Photo by Jansen Romero/ MANILA BULLETIN FILE)

The cancer law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) was signed on August 9 to ensure the provision of quality health services and financial risk protection to cancer patients.

“The NICCA endeavors to prevent and control cancer and improve cancer survivorship by scaling up essential programs and increasing investments for all our efforts across the entire cancer care continuum,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during the signing of the IRR.

Duque said this is from primary prevention such as HBV & HPV vaccination, cancer awareness campaigns, healthy lifestyle campaign in all settings, and risk factor assessment; screening or early detection such as single-visit approach or screen-and-treat for cervical cancer, mobile screening tests of selected cancer types, and genetic testing and counseling; patient navigation; up until palliative care.

According to the 2018 Global Data on Cancer, more than 140,000 new cancer cases and more than 80,000 cancer deaths are expected in the Philippines every year.

“Every year, around 4,000 Filipino children are expected to be diagnosed with cancer; only 1,000 are diagnosed in three of our premier public pediatric cancer referral centers,” Duque said.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Filipinos, followed by lung, colon, liver, and prostate. Lung cancer tops the leading cause of death among all cancers followed by liver, breast, colon, and leukemia, the Global Data on Cancer showed.

The new law aims to expand PhilHealth packages for Filipinos diagnosed with cancer and mandates the establishment of the Philippine Cancer Center to ensure access to cancer care services and medicines.

The Philippine Cancer Center, on the other hand, shall also develop a National Integrated Cancer Control Council to steward policy formulation and programming. Cancer Assistance Fund shall also be created to complement the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.

“Our vision for the newly strengthened National Integrated Cancer Control Program is Comprehensive Cancer Care and Optimized Cancer Survival by 2025, which will complement the implementation of UHC,” Duque said.

Moreover, the National Integrated Cancer Control Act will contribute to the attainment of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 3.4--to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by 30 percent by 2030.

"Ultimately, the Filipinos will be among the healthiest people in Southeast Asia by 2022 and in Asia by 2040," Duque said.