Help for cancer patients and families 

L-R: Cancer survivors Jojo Flores and Emer Rojas, DOH's Dr. Clarito Cairo, resource person Dr. Laura Pedraza and moderator Wilson Lee Flores

A government cancer assistance fund is expected to be launched this year to help Filipinos pay for the cost of screening, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. 

The fund is provided for under the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) or Republic Act 11215 that aims “to strengthen cancer control in the country, increase cancer survivorship and reduce the burden on families and cancer patients”. 

At a recent session of the Pandesal Forum at the Kamuning Bakery Cafe in Quezon City, Dr. Clarito Cairo, program manager of the National Integrated Cancer Control Program, Cancer Control Division of the Department of Health (DOH), gave a brief progress report on the implementation of NICCA, which was signed into law in 2019. 

He said, some local governments had started to classify cancer patients and survivors as persons with disabilities, which entitled them to the discounts and other benefits extended to PWDs and senior citizens. 

The DOH was continuing its capacity-building program to enable more local governments to issue the identification cards and participate in the government’s cancer prevention and control initiatives. 

A total of 30 access sites/hospitals had also been identified as places where cancer patients could enroll to avail of supportive and/or palliative services, Cairo said.  

Patients or their representatives only have to show medical abstracts or certifications, prescriptions and/or treatment protocols. 

Cairo said the department was also trying to expand the national formulary, or list of authorized medicines, that could be given free to cancer patients. He said DOH had actually been giving free cancer medicines since 2011, before NICCA became a law. 

The NICCA was among the topics discussed at the forum which focused on the subject of head and neck cancers (HNCs). 

Main resource person Dr. Laura Pedraza of St. Luke’s Medical Center and Lourdes Hospital stressed that tobacco and alcohol, particularly excessive consumption, were major risk factors in the development of HNCs. 

Smoking was a trigger for engineer Emer Rojas’ HNC. He said he started smoking when he was still a teenager. 

But for Jojo Flores, also an engineer, second-hand smoke might have contributed to his developing HNC. 

All panelists at the forum, which was moderated by journalist and Kamuning Bakery owner Wilson Lee Flores, stressed the importance of early detection and diagnosis for a better survival rate. 

Jojo pointed out that cancer was a burden not just for the patient but the whole family. 

Pedraza said, “Education is key to cancer  prevention. Schools should teach students about the disease.” She emphasized, “Cancer is not the end of life. It is treatable and treatment is now available in the Philippines.” 

Rojas lauded the passage of NICCA, which gave cancer patients and survivors the same discounts and benefits granted to PWDs and senior citizens. 

Jojo said people could avail of the benefits under the law as soon as they were diagnosed with the disease. The law mandates that screening should begin at the community/barangay level. Companies are also encouraged to have cancer prevention/control programs. 

To find out more about the DOH’s initiatives under NICCA, visit the Cancer  Control Division’s Facebook page. For medicines, visit 

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