Speech of Sec. Enrique T. Ona for Cervical Cancer Awareness Month 2013

May 15, 2013


Greetings (VIPs)!

For a decade now, the Department of Health celebrates the “Cervical Cancer Awareness Month” yearly since the promulgation of Proclamation No. 368 declaring the month of May of every year as “Cervical Cancer Awareness Month”.  And I am glad to be here today to speak in behalf of our Secretary of Health to celebrate this momentous occasion with all of you.

Cognizant to the fact that cervical cancer ranks third (3rd) among the estimated leading new cancer death in 2010 and affects relatively young women; notably incidence of cervical cancer usually starts to rise at age 30 and peaks between 45 - 55 years, the Department of Health (DOH) hopes to go full circle for this year’s Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

Cervical cancer remains a public health concern that continues to threaten the welfare and well-being of women and the population as a whole. According to World Health Organization, it is the second most common cancer among women worldwide with about 500,000 news cases and 250,000 deaths each year and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the majority of developing countries.

In the Philippines, based on the 2010 Cancer Facts and Estimates 2010 of the Philippine Cancer Society Incorporated (PCSI), the most common sites of cancer for both sexes are the lungs followed by breasts; while cancer in the cervix ranks fifth (5th) among the top common sites of cancer for both sexes. However, among females, cervix is still the second most common cancer site next to the breasts and twelve (12) women die of cervical cancer every day .

Cervical cancer deaths have significant economic costs and impact heavily on the families’ resources. Many of those who die are breadwinners and caretakers of both children and elders. The affected women lose opportunity to work, preventing other family members to engage in the same, as they have to be taken care of, thus resulting to loss of income and even any savings they may have due to the overwhelming cost of medical treatment.

Experiences in many developed countries showed reductions in cervical cancer incidence and prevalence by as much as 90 percent through well-organized screening programs, detection and subsequently treatment of cervical cancer precursors in early lesions. Studies have shown that early detection and appropriate medical management can lead to a five-year survival rate of 100 percent of women detected with precursor lesions, and 68-90 percent of women detected with early lesions.

Thus, in 2005, the Department of Health emphasized the importance of screening through the establishment of the Cervical Cancer Screening Program through the issuance of DOH Administrative Order No. 2005-0006 which adopted visual inspection with acetic acid wash (VIA) as the screening method of choice for cervical cancer in the Philippines and shall be established at rural health units, district hospitals and provincial hospitals with no pap smear capability.

Pap smear remains as the gold standard in the early detection of cervical cancer because it is the most reliable, most effective widely accepted and used for over 50 years with evidence that it helped reduce incidence of cervical cancer. For those resource- challenged areas where access to Pap smear is difficult, VIA is an alternative test which requires only simple household cane vinegar.

There are many yet simple ways to prevent women from developing cancer.  Screening should be done together with promotion of healthy lifestyle practices such as: 1- be monogamous, 2- delay sex on early age, 3- do not smoke, 4- proper diet and nutrition, and vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus or commonly known as HPV vaccine.  It must be noted, however, that HPV vaccination is not a substitute for the routine cervical cancer screening using VIA or Pap Smear Test.

To further strengthen this campaign against cervical cancer in 2008, the Department of Health together with Philippine Obstetrics and Gynecology Society (POGS), Society of Gyne-Oncologists in the Philippines (SGOP), Philippine Society of Cervical Pathology and Colposcopy (PSCPC) and global pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) conducted several advocacy programs on cervical cancer prevention and control.

Series of kick-off activities were conducted in nationwide. One of which is provision of free cervical screening in selected 65 DOH hospitals at every month of May.  Several symposiums and fora on Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control were also conducted like the HPV Summits 1 and 2. The power of media and technology to disseminate information was used through the launching of the mahalaga.com.website, a website solely dedicated to cervical cancer prevention and control.

Also, turnover of cryotherapy machines which are treatment equipment for those women who are positive in visual inspection with acetic acid wash (VIA), were given to ten (10) selected DOH hospitals and Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRRMMC) is one of the recipients.

In accordance with our current health reform, the Universal Health Care or Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (KP), the administration aims to ensure that all Filipinos have access to quality health services that are effectively delivered, equitably distributed, appropriately financed and utilized by an informed and empowered public.

In 2012, the National Health Insurance Program or Philhealth,  expanded its outpatient benefits through the Primary Care Benefit 1 (PCB1) Package which includes Visual Inspection using Acetic Acid Wash which is the recommended screening method for cervical cancer for low resource setting.

The PCB1 issuance was followed by Philhealth Circular N0. 0002, s 2013 or the Z-Benefit Package which covered newly diagnosed cases of Cervical Cancer I – IIIB with a package rate which includes laboratories, medicines, surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy.

Currently, the Degenerative Disease Office of DOH has just finished the pilot testing of the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control Training Modules and training of health professionals for the RHUs and Health Centers by the training institutions this year will soon follow.

Let us all continue undertaking the campaign to curb the incidence of cervical cancer through increased awareness and medical assistance through a nationwide cervical cancer screening program, with emphasis on the importance of early detection in the fight against cervical cancer. Let us all do our part in fighting this silent killer disease.

No husband should lose a wife, no sibling should lose a sister, no parents should lose a daughter and no child should lose a mother. Every woman has the right to be screened for cervical cancer. Claim this right because you are important. Babae: Mahalaga Ka!