Ateneo De Manila University. We jumped at the prospect of meeting a few survivors and future healthcare providers in another part of the world! This would be the first time we would be speaking to International Students about post-treatment thrivership. We were graced by the presence of: Norman Marquez, Jason Haw, Noel Cruz, Mia Chico, Patricia Nitura, Kyla Cabatit, Chin-Chin Santiago, and Alberto Antonio. We were honored that Ma. Gia Sison MD joined us for the presentation at Ateneo. Dr. Sison had recently completed chemotherapy for breast cancer literally days before the presentation. We were truly honored by her presence and input to the lecture. We had only talked once before the presentation, but we immediately bonded by a common disdain for all forms of tumors/cancer. Although healthcare is different in different countries, we face similar battles fighting diseases, tumors, or cancer.
Health Insurance is private pay in the Philippines. We learned that in the Philippines either you have money or you don’t. This means that if you get diagnosed with cancer and you can’t afford the treatments or medications you are left to fend for yourself. The priorities in terms of tumor/cancer survivorship are very different there! The stigma of tumors/cancer as a “death sentence” is much more prevalent than that of “survivorship”. Our strategy is to educate all future healthcare professionals so that they can provide appropriate resources for their future patients. Educating the layman starts with the healthcare professional planting “seeds of treatment resources,” but ultimately the responsibility lies with the patient and their loved ones to seek and then apply the information they discover. Culturally, this is a huge barrier because patient access to information varies in different regions of the world. Essentially, ALL patients need to know that they do have options. We think mAss Kickers Foundation can assist in providing resources. Healthcare professionals specifically physicians and nurses need to be aware of patient resources and disseminate that information to their patients. Education is the first step.
At Ateneo, we brought up a very controversial subject in the war on tumors/cancer: using clinical trials for patients who don’t have access to traditional life-saving tumor/cancer treatments! I’m not sure if many people would be eligible subjects for clinical trials in third world countries, but the alternative for these patients is NO TREATMENT and ultimately a worse quality of life or even DEATH! People need treatment, and research studies need subjects... Of course clinical trials would need to be closely monitored by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or some sort of ethics committee, but the potential for life saving treatments from this research could benefit A LOT of people and provide HOPE for the less fortunate patients that can’t afford traditional treatment! Every patient deserves options! This opens the door for an ethical debate, but clinical trials should at least be considered in this population. This would require CLOSE MONITORING, but could significantly advance our knowledge and treatment of these diseases! I'd really like to hear your thoughts on the ethics of this...
Anyways, the presentation went well based on the feedback we received from the attendees. In the following days, we got to explore Makati a little more, visit San Pablo where my parents grew up, and visit the beautiful town of Tagaytay! Stay tuned for the next installments of the blog. We have more plans to do international travel next year! We would appreciate your feedback and ideas for future activities.