The rate of premature deaths due to cancer in the Philippines is too high compared to other countries, according to a senior government researcher.

Dr. Valerie Gilbert Ulep, senior researcher of the government think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), said at least 25,000 cancer cases are reported every year in the Philippines.

Of these, 9,000 to 9,500 are breast cancers, he said.

What’s alarming, according to Ulep, was the high rate of premature cancer deaths in the country.

“Let’s look at cancer in terms of premature deaths,” said Ulep at the Kapihan forum on Aug. 30.

“If you look at the data in the Philippines, the rate of premature deaths is too high,” he said. “We’re even higher than Cambodia.”

He said in the Philippines, 50 to 60 percent of cancer deaths are premature, or those that could have been prevented.

For comparison, the rate of premature deaths due to cancer is only 30 to 40 percent in Singapore, Ulep said.

“If you look at deaths in the Philippines, many are dying at the peak of their careers,” he said, citing results of his team’s study.

Ulep said women stricken with breast cancer die prematurely in the Philippines. “Imagine, they die at the peak of their productivity,” he said.

While cancer survival rates are also determined by the type of cancer and its stage, Ulep said “early detection increases the chance of survival.”

Edgar Christian Cuaresma, head of the University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay Hospital oncology department, said at the same forum that cancer’s impact is massive on patients.

“It is life-changing,” Cuaresma said. He agreed with Ulep that early detection raises the survival rate to as much as 90 percent in some cases.

According to Ulep, citing the results of his team’s study, at least 9,000 cancer patients die every year in the Philippines.

If half of these deaths are premature, or preventable, then more than 4,000 people die yearly when these deaths could have been avoided, Ulep said.

He said studies have found that 10 percent of cancer cases are caused by genetic disorders, while 90 percent by other factors like lifestyle, diets, and others.

But many cancer cases, said Ulep, “could be prevented.”

“A big chunk of them could be prevented with proper management and detection,” said Ulep.

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