No, this is not about how much you have to pay when you are treated for cancer. It is about a law that has been pushed in the Senate.
“Since social safety nets are limited, patients and their families are forced to use their hard-earned savings and assets for medical expenses. Some discontinue their treatment out of financial incapability.”
That was what Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara pointed out in his recent sponsorship speech on Senate Bill No. 1570 or the proposed National Integrated Cancer Control Act.
He called on his fellow lawmakers to hasten the passage of the measure that would make cancer more equitable and affordable to all Filipinos.
According to the senator, neoplasms or tumors (which are commonly associated with cancer) is the second leading cause of death among Filipinos – after heart ailments, data from the 2016 Philippine Statistics Authority showed.
“Cancer will remain one of the leading causes of death worldwide,” said the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) in its report, Life in the 21st Century: A Vision for All, in 1998.
The University of the Philippines-Institute of Human Genetics reported that at least four Filipinos die from cancer every hour.
For every 1,000 Filipinos living today, one gets cancer. And the incidence is higher among females than males, according to the Philippine Cancer Society, Inc. (PCSI). Ninety-one percent occur between the ages of 35 and above.
Three-fourths of all cancer cases in the country emerge among those between the ages 60 and above. The leading cancer sites/types are lung, breast, cervix, liver, colon and rectum, prostate, stomach, oral cavity, ovary and leukemia.
Lung cancer is the most common form of cancer among Filipinos, both males and females. In women, lung is the third most common type of cancer. Cigarette smoking is estimated to be responsible for 85% of cancer cases among men and 75% among women or 83% overall. Smoking accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths.
Cancer is not a pleasant experience. Symptoms include loss of appetite, the slow wasting of the body, fatigue, stupor, bleeding, loss of motor functions, dementia, paralysis, or even a state of coma.
“I now understand why Jose Rizal made Noli Me Tangere the title for his novel about the cancer of Filipino society. I know – I have a cancer. I can’t bear even the slightest touch for it is so painful,” a cancer patient once remarked.
Cancer comes from the Greek word karnikos, which means “the crab.” It is not a modern disease. Some of our apelike ancestors undoubtedly suffered from it, so did the dinosaurs. In fact, says Dr. Robert Weinberg, a molecular biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “it is a risk that all multicellular organisms run.”
Each time a human cell divides, it must replicate its DNA, a biochemical manuscript some 3 billion characters long. In the course of transcribing such a lengthy document, even a skilled typist could be expected to make mistakes, and cells, like typist, occasionally err.
More often than not, the mistakes they make are minor and quickly repaired by proteins that serve as a miniature mechanics. Occasionally though, cells with defects in their DNA will continue to divide, eventually forming small growths. That’s the time trouble starts.
“The more cell-division cycles an organism undergoes, the more likely it to accumulate colonies of abnormal cells, each of the offspring of a single progenitor,” wrote Time science writer J. Madeleine Nash. “By the time human reach middle adulthood, then their bodies contain millions of cells that have taken at least one step toward cancer.”
“Cancer may be present in very many ways: as a lump, some change in body function, bleeding, anemia or weight loss – occasionally the first symptoms being from a metastasis,” explains The New American Desk Encyclopedia. “Less often tumors produce substances mimicking the action of hormones or producing remote effects such as neuritis.” Neuritis is any disorder of the peripheral nervous system, which interferes with sensation, the nerve control of muscle, or both.
Like taxes and death, cancer is no respecter. It strikes anyone – rich and poor, unknown and famous. Filipino president Corazon Aquino, American actor John Wayne, and Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman all died of cancer.
The PCSI says 80 percent of all cancers can be attributed to environmental influences, particularly those related to lifestyle practices, especially eating. “About one-third of all cancer deaths may be related to what we eat,” it points out.
As such, the PCSI recommends eating a lot of high-fiber foods like fruits, whole grains and vegetables. “Fiber helps get rid of a lot of toxins and carcinogens from the body because it helps a person digests food and eliminates waste better,” the cancer society explains. Good sources of fiber foods are corn, rice, peas, sweet potato, gabi, kangkong, mangoes, and tomatoes.
Increase intake of vitamins C and A is also recommended. “The best sources are fruits and vegetables, not pills or supplements,” the cancer society urges. Sources of vitamins C and A include dark green and dark yellow fresh vegetables, including carrots, squash,malunggay, alugbati, sili leaves, and saluyot. Among fruits, the good sources are oranges, calamansi, guava, and strawberries.
Foods to eat less: those containing fats. Fat is needed to transports vitamins A, C, and E, and provide acids needed for good nutrition. But it should not exceed 20 percent of the total calories in the diet. “The evidence is growing that eating too much fat may increase your chances of getting cancers of the colon, breast, and prostate,” the PCSI says.
Eating salt-cured, smoke and nitrite-cured foods must also be cut down. “Avoid having frequent servings of smoked bacon, ham, hotdogs, certain cold-cuts, sausages and salt-cured fish,” the PCSI urges. “Think about serving them only or special occasions.”
As for those salty foods, the PCSI reminds, “Taking in too much salt may initiate damage of the lining of the intestines.” Those salt-cured meats and fish are also high in ‘salitre,’ which has nitrates and nitrite. “Excessive salt hastens the conversion of these substances in the stomach, and the formation of nitrosamines, which are cancer-causing.”
Apart from good nutrition, what are the other preventive actions to avoid cancer risks? “Having daily exercise, avoiding smoking, maintaining ideal weight, keeping yourself safe on the job, and having regular physical examinations are helpful,” the PCSI says.
Now, who’s afraid of cancer?