DOH to establish cancer centers

The Department of Health (DOH) will be establishing cancer centers to address the need for accessible and quality radiation therapy services.

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“Given that cancer is one of the top causes of death and sickness in the Philippines, the establishment of cancer centers in strategically located hospitals will help ensure access to radiation therapy for our cancer-stricken patients, especially those who live far from Metro Manila,” Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin said.

Recipient hospitals will have a linear accelerator, treatment planning system, CT simulator, and brachytherapy units. They will be located in the following areas: Southern Philippines Medical Center (Davao City), Cagayan Valley Medical Center (Tuguegarao City, Cagayan), Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, Bicol Medical Center (Naga City, Camarines Sur), Zamboanga City Medical Center, Lung Center of the Philippines (Quezon City), and Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (Cebu City).

A linear accelerator is used for external beam therapy, wherein customized high energy x-rays conforming to a tumor’s shape are produced for destroying cancer cells while avoiding damaging surrounding normal tissue. A brachytherapy unit is used for internal beam therapy, wherein a protected radiation source is placed directly within or near the tumor site. In both instances, since radiation is focused on the tumor without damaging healthy tissues, the treatment outcome is significantly improved compared to other treatment modalities for cancer.

Secretary Garin added that the operations of the equipment can be sustained by reimbursements from the radiotherapy and Z benefits package of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

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At present, PhilHealth has the following benefit packages which can be availed of for radiation therapy:

  • radiotherapy (P3,000.00/session);
  • chemoradiation with cobalt and brachytherapy (low dose) for cervical cancer stage IA1, IA2 – IIA1 (P 120,000.00/case);
  • chemoradiation with linear accelerator and brachytherapy (high dose) for cervical cancer (P 175,000.00/case);
  • radiotherapy using linear accelerator for rectal cancer stage II-III (P 400,000/case);
  • radiation therapy for breast cancer stage 0 to III-A (P 100,000.00/case); and
  • low to intermediate risk prostate cancer (P 100,000.00/case).

PhilHealth-sponsored program members, including indigents identified by the DSWD’s National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), are entitled to no-balance billing (no co-payment) when they avail of these services.

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“Cancer is an illness that can wreck not only physical havoc, but also financial catastrophe for the patients and their loved ones. These investments in cancer care will allow more of our people, especially the poor, to experience accessible, affordable, and quality care, consistent with Kalusugan Pangkalahatan,” the secretary concluded.

—From the Department of Health