Filipinos should be able to determine the difference between genuine medical practitioners and those engaged in “voodoo medicine and science.”

To those seeking treatment, here are the seven signs of voodoo medicine and science that Dr. Ellie May Villareal, past president of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO), showed.

rep-alfred-vargas.jpgRep. Alfred Vargas, 5th District, Quezon City, briefs media on his bill for cancer treatment. From right: Dr. Claire V. Soliman, PSMO president, and Dr. Ellie May Villegas, past PSMO president, during a press conference in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila. (EKU)

She was then discussing about Alternative Therapies during the PSMO press conference which revolved around “Cancer Compass: Guiding Patients Towards the Right Decisions in Cancer Care” as part of their annual cancer convention.

Voodoo medicine and science

The seven signs of voodoo medicine and science, Villegas, citing her source as Dr. Kathleen Wesa, integrative medicine specialist, are:

  • Proponent pitches claim directly to media.
  • Claims a powerful establishment is suppressing his work.
  • The effect is at the very limit of detection.
  • Evidence is anecdotal.
  • He works in isolation.
  • Says a belief is credible because it has endured decades or centuries.
  • Proposes new law of nature to explain how it works.

Villegas indicated that no one should believe offer of medical treatment backed only by anecdotal evidence.

She said genuine medicines are science-based and go through rigorous research and clinical trials among other processes.

“As information dissemination is one of PSMO’s main missions, we strive to arm the public with as much information as possible about cancer treatment.

“Patients who chose alternative methods of treatment instead of standard research-backed cancer care can face several risks including unknown side effects, safety and effectivity issues, quality control concerns, and potentially allowing tumors and cancer to spread past the point that standard treatment may no longer work,” said Villegas, a member of the PSMO Multimedia Committee.

FDA approval

She advised cancer patients to consult the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) if they go into alternative cancer treatments.

The problem with products and therapies that do not have FDA approval are not likely to help and even be harmful or interfere with doctor-prescribed treatments, Villegas said, while drugs, devices and other therapies with FDA approval were thoroughly tested in clinical trials to make sure they are both safe and effective.

On October 11, the PSMO in partnership with the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), conducted their annual cancer convention at EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila.

They held the event timed with the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Many oncology experts from the Philippines and across the world participated in the conference as they discussed the latest research, innovations, and advances in caring for cancer patients.

The cancer care experts shared new initiatives and best practices during the conference, which they then relayed to the members of the media, such as their discussions, news, and important research findings to help widen and continue cancer education.

Rising incidence of cancer

“It is vital to persist in pushing awareness as studies show a steady increase in global cancer incidence and in the Philippines, in particular, with roughly 141,021 cases reported in 2018 alone,” the PSMO said in a statement.

Among women, the group revealed, the top cancer sites are include breast, cervix, colorectal, lung, and ovary.

On the hand, in the case of men, they are lung, colorectal, prostate, liver, and leukemia have remained the most common sites.

The PSMO also noted that of the leading causes of cancer in the country, such as breast, lung, liver, colorectal, and cervix, three of them are preventable (lung, liver, and cervix), while breast and colorectal can be cured if detected early.

At the press conference included Rep. Alfred Vargas, 5th District Quezon City, Villegas, and Dr. Claire V. Soliman, PSMO president.

Vargas recalled his late mother suffering from cancer and saw what cancer patients go through every day.

He said a study showed that cost of medical treatment for cancer patients far exceeds poor people’s household income.

Financial catastrophe for the poor

The result: more than 50 percent of households falling into financial catastrophe.

People in the poorest communities, the actor-turned congressman said, are denied treatment simply because of their economic limitations.

For cancer patients among the poorest of the poor, Vargas said they prefer not getting treatment because they love their family and do not want to take food from their family to be used for treatment.

‘i love my family, my family cannot afford. I don’t want to be a burden to my family,” Vargas quoted cancer patients from the poorest communities.

The congressman said it is unacceptable to him the fact that if you get cancer and you are poor, it’s goodbye.

“This is unacceptable to me, that is why this bill,” Vargas said referring to his bill in the House of Representatives, the proposed National Integrated Cancer Control Act, with some 30 cancer-related bills consolidated into it.

“How a government treats its cancer patients, you can tell the kind of a government,” he said.

Bill on cancer allocates Php30 billion

Vargas said the bill proposes, among others, a Php30 billion allocation minimum every year as Cancer Assistance Fund (CAF), and the establishment of Regional Centers for Cancer across the country so that patients in the provinces do not have to come to Manila to seek treatment.

He said all the 17 regions of the country must have such facilities.

The bill also proposes a National Integrated Cancer Advisory Board (NICAB), he added, with funding covering treatments and patient assistance.

Soliman noted the expansion of cancer care for Filipino patients.

“Cancer care in the country has continued to expand and improve. The last five years has seen a surge in the availability of world-class cancer treatment modalities,” the PSMO president pointed out.

“Surgeons can now offer more minimally invasive procedures, new state-of-the-art radiation therapies have emerged, and medicines other than chemotherapy and hormonal therapy are now available such as targeted therapy, monoclonal anti-bodies, and immuno-therapy.”

The PSMO president said the days of patients losing hair, vomiting, and losing appetite as a side effect because of chemotherapy are already gone, assuring that this is because new medicines have less to no side effects while side effects that remain can be minimized with adjunct medicines. (EKU)