A P1-BILLION assistance fund for cancer patients and survivors has been earmarked by the Department of Health (DoH) for 2024, reflecting a 50% increase from this year’s budget to address the deadly chronic disease.

“[There will be] P1 billion for the Cancer Assistance Fund as financial support that will be accessed in 35 projected sites,” Health Secretary Teodoro J. Herbosa told the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on its deliberations for next year’s budget, pegged at P204.60 billion.

According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the Philippines reports 25,000 cases of cancer every year, with breast cancer cases up to 9,500.

PIDS senior researcher Valerie Gilbert T. Ulep called on the need to look at cancer cases in terms of premature deaths or deaths caused by factors other than old age.

“If you look at the data in the Philippines, the rate of premature deaths is too high,” Mr. Ulep said in an Aug. 30 forum. “We’re even higher than Cambodia.”

Mr. Ulep said that 90% of cancer cases are caused by factors like lifestyle and diet, while 10% are due to genetic disorders.

He added that at least 9,000 cancer patients die yearly. “If half of these deaths is premature, or preventable, then more than 4,000 people die yearly when these deaths could have been avoided.”

Early detection raises cancer survival rates by 90%, Mr. Ulep said.

There are 6,666 registered cancer patients, according to the DoH.

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