Saturday, April 6, 2024

Together for Health: Making a United Stand Against Cervical Cancer

“Collaboration and innovation to address the barriers and inequalities in cancer prevention and care is critical. Hopefully, with various sectors working together, we can develop and implement an integrated and holistic approach to cancer elimination, helping achieve our national targets for immunization, screening, and treatment. We in the biopharmaceutical industry consider ourselves as partners in nation-building, because a healthy citizenry is the backbone of a strong and inclusive economy.” ~Teodoro Padilla, Executive Director of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP)

Cervical Cancer can be avoided by getting vaccinated against HPV—human papillomavirus, which causes approximately 99% of all cervical cancers—and having regular screenings. Cervical cancer is one of the most treatable cancers when detected early and effectively managed. Nonetheless, 4,380 of the 8,549 Filipino women diagnosed with cervical cancer die each year, accounting for more than half. Every day, an estimated 12 Filipinas die from this disease—that is, every two hours, a woman loses her battle with cervical cancer, and a family loses a loved one.

Understanding the burden of cervical cancer and emphasizing the urgency of concrete multi-sectoral action towards its elimination, the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) and healthcare company MSD in the Philippines organized a forum titled "Together for Health: Making a United Stand Against Cervical Cancer" on April 5, 2024.

  • Increased incidence, rising costs
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women, particularly among women aged 15 to 44 in the Philippines. The same pattern is observed throughout the region; additionally, cervical cancer incidence and mortality are increasing, according to an Economist Impact study published in 2023. Furthermore, inconsistent adoption of national-level immunization and screening leads to cervical cancer being diagnosed too late, when health outcomes are less favorable.

In addition to the human cost, cervical cancer can have a devastating economic impact. Patients face high out-of-pocket (OOP) healthcare costs, both direct (treatment and hospitalization, medications, caregiving services) and indirect (lost productivity and income generation). Cancer patients and their families incur debt; in fact, 7 out of 10 cancer patients in the country "drop out of treatment regimen" due to financial constraints. As the number of cases increases, the burden on the government, which invests in cancer care infrastructure and provides cancer assistance to patients as required by law, is expected to double to PhP200 billion over the next two decades.

  • Intensifying efforts to eliminate cervical cancer
The Philippine government adheres to the World Health Organization’s Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer, which aims to achieve the following targets by 2030:
  • 90% of girls fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine by the age of 15;
  • 70% of women screened with a high-performance test by the age of 35, and again, by the age of 45; and
  • 90% of women identified with cervical disease receive treatment (90% of women with precancer treated and 90% of women with invasive cancer managed).

The Philippine government has committed to intensifying its efforts and interventions aimed at prevention and early detection services to harness the impact of reducing the cancer burden through the Department of Health's (DOH) National Integrated Cancer Control Program (NICCP) Strategic Framework and its action priorities under the DOH Health Sector Strategy (2023-2028). Existing programs include free HPV vaccination (along with awareness campaigns aimed at increasing cancer literacy and dispelling myths that lead to vaccine hesitancy) and capacity building for primary and specialist care providers across the country to improve cancer care delivery, including cervical cancer screenings for women.

A multifaceted problem requires a multisectoral approach. Cervical cancer elimination requires the collaboration of a wide range of stakeholders, including the biopharmaceutical industry, the private sector, and other industry players, patient organizations, government agencies at the local and national levels involved in the implementation of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, and even donor organizations focused on health promotion.

“Cervical cancer is not a death sentence; it is preventable and, if detected early, highly treatable. We need to continue promoting research-based information, prioritizing health education, and providing access to quality and affordable cancer care. Our focus should be on placing women at the center, amplifying the voices of cervical cancer patients, and ensuring that we deliver best-in-class vaccines and the latest innovations in cancer care products and services within their reach.” ~Andreas Riedel, President and Managing Director of MSD in the Philippines

Through education, prevention, screening and treatment—and the appropriate investment provided to all three through multisectoral partnerships—it is possible to end cervical cancer as a public health problem, making generations of women and girls safe from the disease so that they live healthier, longer, and more productive lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment