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Mahal magkasakit! Angara pushes for affordable cancer treatment for poor

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Senator Sonny Angara wants cancer treatment and care “more equitable and affordable” for all Filipinos.

He sought the passage of Senate Bill No. 1570 which provides for a Cancer Assistance Fund to support the medical and treatment assistance program for cancer patients.

“Cancer pushes Filipino families deeper into poverty. The costs of screening and treatment are catastrophic,” Angara said.

Since social safety nets “are limited, patients and their families are forced to use their hard-earned savings and assets for medical expenses,” he said.

Some discontinue their treatment out of financial incapability, said Angara in his sponsorship speech on SBN 1570 or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act.

A 2016 Philippine Statistics Authority report showed that neoplasms or tumors—which are commonly associated with cancer—are the second leading cause of death for Filipinos, next only to heart ailments.

Every hour, at least four Filipinos die from cancer, according to the University of the Philippines-Institute of Human Genetics.

He said studies showed that many of the preventable and premature deaths from cancer can be attributed to: low awareness of signs and symptoms; delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis; poor access to health facilities; limited health systems infrastructure for treatment and care; lack of trained health professionals for cancer-related services; among others.

He lamented that the country “is ill-prepared” to provide proper cancer care. That was why he raised the need for an integrated cancer control and management program.

SBN 1570 seeks to expand Philhealth’s current benefits to include screening, detection, diagnosis, treatment assistance, palliative and supportive care, survivorship follow up care and rehabilitation, for all types and stages of cancer, and for both adults and children.

The bill also aims to ensure that there’s sufficient supply of essential cancer medicines and cancer control related vaccines, which should be made accessible and affordable.

Cancer patients and cancer survivors will also be given the same rights and privileges under the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.

“We must afford every Filipino cancer patient with the highest possible chance of survival,” Angara said.

“We should also create a supportive environment for people living with cancer and cancer survivors, especially their families and carers, to reduce distress and ensure their well-being,” he said.