MSD in the Philippines reaffirms commitment to end cervical cancer

June 29, 2023

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Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer type and the second most common cause of cancer death in women of reproductive age (15–44 years) worldwide. The highest incidence and mortality rates are generally observed in countries with the lowest values of the Human Development Index.

In the Philippines, cervical cancer ranks as the 2nd most frequent cancer among women and the 2nd most frequent cancer among women. The Philippines recorded almost 8,000 new cases of cervical cancer and more than 4,000 deaths in 2020 alone.

Yet cervical cancer is largely preventable through both vaccination and screening for precursor lesions, with appropriate follow-up and treatment.

As the country celebrates Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, healthcare company MSD in the Philippines, reaffirms its unwavering commitment to empower women to be in-charge of their health by strengthening its disease awareness efforts and education campaigns to combat cervical cancer. 

As a company that puts patients at the center of what we do, MSD is committed to playing a leading role in the fight against cervical cancer. They believe that through patient empowerment and health literacy campaigns, alongside a steadfast dedication to prevention, early detection, and treatment, they can eliminate this devastating disease and improve women’s lives worldwide,” said Andreas Riedel, President and Managing Director of MSD.

MSD is also working with national and local stakeholders from both public and private sector to achieve the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global strategy towards eliminating cervical cancer as a public health problem. This strategy recommends a comprehensive approach to cervical cancer prevention and control. The recommended actions include interventions across the life course.

The definition of elimination of cervical cancer has been set up as a country reaching the threshold of less than 4 cases of cervical cancer per 100 000 women per year.  To reach this threshold by the end of 21st century, WHO has set up the 90-70-90 targets to be reached by 2030 and to be maintained: 90% of girls fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine by age 15; 70% of women are screened with a high-performance test by 35, and again by 45 years of age; and 90% of women identified with cervical disease receive treatment. 

Step toward cervical cancer control

The Philippine government has implemented several health programs in support of prevention and control of cervical cancer.

cervical cancer MSD

One of which is the School-based Immunization Program (SBIP) that aims to protect school-aged children against vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2015, the DOH introduced the HPV vaccination program in public schools nationwide. It has since expanded to benefit female Grade 4 students aged 9 to 13 years old to help protect them against HPV infection, cervical cancer, and other HPV-related diseases. This age group benefits the most from the vaccination program as they are not yet exposed to HPV, which usually results from sexual activity. 

For Academic Year 2022 to 2023, the DOH has procured 1.2 million doses of HPV vaccines, which will benefit 600,000 students nationwide. And with the return to face-to-face classes, it is only timely and prudent to reinstate the HPV vaccination program to help protect our students from HPV infection, cervical cancer, and other diseases caused by HPV. 

The Department of Health has also been promoting the availability of free cervical cancer screening in all trained Rural Health Units, which aims to increase early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. Additionally, the government has ensured the availability of cryotherapy equipment in every province (81 provinces) to provide effective treatment for pre-cancerous lesions.

The DOH has implemented the Cancer Assistance Fund (CAF) which aims to provide support for patients living with cancer and for cancer survivors. implementation of the CAF shall cover outpatient and inpatient services including but not limited to diagnostics, therapeutic procedures, medicines, treatment and management services, and other care-related components of cancer. The CAF is designed to complement existing financial support mechanisms in public and private facilities. Cervical cancer is one of the 8 priority cancer types eligible to be financed by the CAF.

“These initiatives by the government show commitment to addressing the challenges posed by cervical cancer and improving the health outcomes of their citizens. It is important for women to take advantage of these programs and to prioritize their health by seeking early detection and treatment, “ noted Dr. Mary Ann Galang-Escalona, Country Medical Lead.

Beyond Cervical Cancer Awareness Month 

MSD is committed to improving cervical cancer care for Filipino women, from prevention to treatment, and is working with the government and key stakeholders to ensure sustainable funding, broader access, and trust in public-private partnerships for healthcare. 

This includes support in strengthening vaccine confidence through the National Immunization Program. MSD has launched a local campaign called #TimeToTalkAboutHPV, which aims to eliminate the stigma surrounding HPV and emphasize the need for prevention to avoid the physical, emotional, and economic burdens of HPV-related diseases. 

MSD is also working with private and government partners to push for the proper implementation and funding of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) through its cancer advocacy campaign, Hope From Within. 

“At MSD, we believe that every Filipina, regardless of socioeconomic status, should have access to the latest and most innovative medicines, vaccines, and therapies. We are committed to working with healthcare stakeholders and government agencies to ensure equitable access because health equity is essential to building a better, healthier future for all,” emphasized Karlo Paredes, Corporate Affairs and Market Access Director.

Initiatives to raise awareness and empower people to action do not stop on cervical cancer awareness month. In August, MSD will be hosting the 12th HPV Summit which is a platform for engagement for all sectors sharing the goal of battling HPV and cervical cancer in the Philippines. For more than 10 years, it has rallied support for promoting the health of Filipinos of all ages, particularly towards eliminating HPV and HPV-related diseases. This year’s theme “One Community Against HPV” aims to highlight the contribution of various sectors of society in protecting the Filipino population from cervical cancer.