Cancer is Just a Name

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By Darleth Romana-Bantiles, MD

“Cancer (CA) affects everyone – the young and old, the rich and poor, men, women and children – and represents a tremendous burden on patients, families and societies. CA is one of the leading causes of death in the world.” This latest statement from the World Health Organization paints the current scenario of the CA burden. Moreover, the number of new CA cases is expected to rise by 70% in the next 2 decades. From 2010, CA has been among the top 3 causes of death in the Philippines, next to heart and blood vessel conditions. 

According to a document from the Philippine Cancer Society, drafted in cooperation with the Department of Health – National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Rizal Medical Center, University of the Philippines and the Finnish Cancer Registry, almost 33% of all types of CA are preventable. There are cancer-protecting mechanisms that may be devised, such as:  having a healthy diet, staying physically fit, and maintaining minimal or coping with stress. 

The diagnosis of CA, while undeniably life-changing for anyone, is not a death sentence. It may seriously affect a patient, even his/her family members and other caregivers. However, the horizon is not altogether bleak and gloomy, because people can choose to be informed about the condition and empowered about the options for treatment. Nowadays, internet connectivity provides the avenue for accessing evidence-based information and sourcing support from CA networks. Patients can take charge of their CA experience by making their preference known, exercising informed decision-making, and demanding that their dignity and values are respected in the management of their conditions. Via CA networks, patients and their supporters may mobilize to point research and medical systems into directions that serve their interests, more than those of the commercially-driven interested parties that boom on perpetuating cancer growth.

Early detection is the key in curing CA. Research shows that most common forms of CA, in the breast, cervix, colon, rectum, oral cavity, thyroid and prostate gland, currently have curative treatment. Unfortunately, awareness about early signs and symptoms of the condition may be low, so CA is not diagnosed early enough to be cured. Sometimes, it is also not the lack of awareness about CA, but the majority of Filipinos’ inability to shoulder expenses in treatment that hinder many citizens to address detected CA symptoms. 

Conventional treatments, like surgery and radiation, may remove malignant cells at early stages and provide total cure. Some doctors recommend chemotherapy with drugs or immunotherapy as an adjuvant, when the CA is in a more advanced stage. An increasing number of patients are exploring complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments for CA nowadays. 

Integrative medicine, as a discipline that combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness, is now being considered in the field of oncology. Integrative oncology recognizes the importance of considering the processes of the mind and spirit, in bringing about healing of the physical aspect of man or the body. An exploratory survey of patients in the UP-Philippine General Hospital Cancer Institute, in 2005, reveals that almost all CA patients utilize 2-3 CAM modalities, including prayer and psychosocial support.

Ozone therapy, intravenous treatments and detoxification are but some natural and organic alternative innovations that strengthen a CA patient’s inherent ability to fight the disease. Together with diet and lifestyle modifications, these treatments address the root of CA, rather than focus on symptoms alone. There may also be instances when patients, after undergoing conventional CA treatments, may benefit from alternative treatments that boost the immune system. Patients are also reporting better quality of life, with lesser concerns about safety and adverse reactions from alternative treatments. The Healthy Life Center in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig is one such medical institution that offers Integrative oncology therapies.