Around 150 years ago, many people wouldn’t know what lung cancer was. Back then, the disease was considered to be “extremely rare,” comprising only 1 percent of all cancers recorded at that time.

Fast-forward to the present, this is no longer the case. Today, most of us know someone who has lung cancer or who has died from it.

In fact, lung cancer is currently tied with breast cancer at the top rank of most commonly diagnosed cancers in the world, with each cancer type comprising 11.6 percent of all diagnoses in 2018, according to the World Health Organization. However, compared to breast cancer, lung cancer is by far more deadly.

Lung cancer is responsible for 18.4 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide, while colorectal cancer, which takes the distant second place, is responsible for only 8.2 percent. Breast cancer is at fifth place with 6.6 percent.

In the Philippines, there were 17,255 new cases of lung cancer and 15,454 deaths occurred due to the disease in 2018.

Because of its alarming increase in incidence and mortality rates, the disease has opened an important battleground in the healthcare community. However, the fight against lung cancer is also a frustrating one, because all too often, the malignancy is discovered only in its late stages where, historically, it has been difficult to help patients survive even just a year after diagnosis. 

Very few patients with advanced lung cancer have made it the past two years. Survival of five years after diagnosis had been virtually unheard of.

But all this is starting to change. The tide is beginning to turn in favor of the lung cancer patient, because of research and development leading to breakthroughs of modern medicine, we now possess the technology that renews hope in improving patient outcomes.

With the advent of new treatment options, many patients with advanced stages of lung malignancy survive past the five-year mark.6 Through the multi-stakeholder partnership between government agencies, non-government organizations, medical societies and patient advocacy groups, innovative treatments such as immunotherapy and targeted therapies are being made more accessible in the goal to create better supportive care systems for lung cancer patients. 

On September 5, 2019, at the Diamond Hotel, lung cancer survivors, caregivers, specialist physicians, as well as representatives from medical societies, hospitals, and government agencies, gather to resolve gaps and identify action points and opportunities for improvement for each phase of the lung cancer journey for Filipino patients – from symptoms onset to post-treatment. 

The event, titled “Voices of Hope: Winning vs Lung Cancer” involved panel discussions moderated by MSD’s Hope From Within ambassador and journalist Diego Castro and medical oncologist Dr. Herdee Luna. Diego Castro has been the longtime advocate of MSD’s Hope From Within and the face of Test, Talk, Take Action – MSD’s lung cancer campaign that began in 2017 which promoted early screening, the importance of dialogues to strengthen the commitment to fight the disease and urged for increasing access to treatment options. 

Given the magnitude of the lung cancer burden, Hope From Within brings back focus on this malignancy, this time with the objective of addressing key concerns throughout the patient journey. 

Voices of Hope
MSD Philippines’ Hope From Within multi-stakeholder advocacy unveils new lung cancer ambassadors and advocates.

Discussion topics include early signs of lung cancer, recommendations for early screening, new treatment options and their potential benefits to prognosis, the patient’s, caregiver’s, and physician’s roles in the diagnosis-and-treatment dialogue, post-treatment care, coping with the stages of grief7, and the various ways to get material support for treatment.

Members of the panel include medical oncologist Dr. Herdee Luna; Dr. Nelia Tan-Liu, consultant of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Lung Center of the Philippines; Dr. Cecilia Llave, President, Philippine Society of Oncologists; Karen Villanueva, Treasurer, Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations and Board Member, International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations. 

The highlight of the event was the introduction of new Hope From Within ambassadors and advocates, wherein they provided first-hand insights on the discussions. Joining Diego in rallying behind the lung cancer advocacy are columnist priest Fr. Jerry Orbos, veteran actors Susan Africa and Tirso Cruz III, TV host and social media influencer Dr. Gia Sison, medical oncologist Dr. Meredith Garcia, and stage IV lung cancer patient, Tetit Melendres-Aristan. 

Fr. Jerry Orbos and Tirso Cruz both fought stage 2 lung cancer, while Susan Africa took care of her late husband Spanky Manikan whom eventually lost his battle against the disease. Dr. Gia Sison, who specializes in occupational medicine, is a breast cancer survivor while Dr. Meredith Garcia is a medical oncologist and a passionate advocate for new cancer treatments such as immunotherapy.

The Hope From Within: “Voices of Hope: Winning vs Lung Cancer” media launch is aligned with the “Inventing for Life” corporate anthem of MSD in the Philippines which encapsulates the vision and the company’s efforts towards invention and innovation to address some of the world’s most life-threatening diseases like lung cancer. These inventions not only encompass harnessing the capabilities of world-class science to provide medical solutions, but also in pioneering and strengthening multi-sectoral collaboration to broaden the reach of advocacies with the goal of improving patient outcomes and saving more lives.

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