Despite the increasing number of cancer deaths worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) reiterates that between 30-50 percent of cancers can be prevented by interventions such as lifestyle changes and early screening.

In the Philippines, cancer claims the lives of 56, 000 Filipinos a year, making it one of the country’s top causes of death.Top cancer killers in the Philippines include breast, lung, colorectal, liver and cervical cancers.

According to the World Health Organization, cancer was responsible for nearly 8.8 million deaths in 2015, a number that could reach 17 million by 2030.

“The increasing number of new cancer cases worldwide is alarming and it becomes more pressing for us to pursue strategic interventions,” said Dr. Christine Gruenberg of the Cardinal Santos Medical Center (CSMC).

Diagnosed too late

Cancer symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, fever, fatigue, and skin changes are often mistaken for common illnesses that by the time of diagnosis, the tumors have already spread to other parts of the body.

Though one third of cancer deaths are due to behavioral and dietary risks namely high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use, factors such as family history, physical environment, and infectious agents like HPV also contribute to the rise of cancer incidence worldwide.

Patients’ survival chances also get slimmer when their cancer is diagnosed at a late stage. Aside from lower likelihood of survival, delayed diagnosis also causes serious treatment-related side effects and higher healthcare costs.

Better cancer outcomes

The WHO identified three steps that can help improve diagnosis: improving awareness, capacity building, and ensuring treatment access.

Treatment methods cannot begin, however, if there is no pathologic confirmation of the disease. This is why the availability of advanced healthcare technology matters in improving diagnosis, said GE Healthcare Philippines Country Manager Ivan Arota.

“Just like all other health challenges, addressing the burden of cancer requires a multi-sectoral approach. Our work as a healthcare solutions provider does not stop with the development of innovative medical equipment,” Arota said.

“We help build on the diagnostic capacity of healthcare workers pursuant to the recommendations of the WHO,” he added.

CSMC’s latest effort to meet the Philippines’ needs on cancer care is the installation of the Discovery™ PET/CT 710. The Discovery PET/CT 710 features high sensitivity, advanced protocol flexibility, and high-definition image reconstruction to help doctors recommend the best possible tailor regimen for patients, while minimizing radiation.

A PET-CT scan is an invaluable diagnostic tool in cancer care that simultaneously performs two individual tests to detect cancer and determine its stage. The highly sensitive PET scan detects the metabolic signal of actively growing cancer cells – a key element in the diagnostic process; while the CT scan creates a detailed image of abnormal cancerous tissues inside the body, including their location and size. To identify any abnormalities, a radiopharmaceutical marker called Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) is injected into the patient. The PET scanner picks up the signal produced by the marker, creating images of the FDG distribution in the body. Combined, a PET-CT scan provides doctors with comprehensive information on the disease and allows them to plan treatment effectively.

“When healthcare providers recommend treatment options to cancer patients, they rely heavily on data generated by equipment and other tools. We can’t compromise quality and efficient monitoring because lives are at stake,” said CSMC Medical Director Dr. Zenaida Javier-Uy.

“The addition of a PET/CT in CSMC’s range of equipment and services will help us in our commitment to provide improved cancer care and better clinical outcomes for our patients,” Dr. Javier-Uy added.

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