A leap in cancer treatment

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Dr. Dennis Sacdalan, oncologist and Head of the Cancer Center of Medical Hospital Manila.

The Big C, it is called, for cancer is considered one of the deadliest and most costly diseases in the world.

In the Philippines alone, studies show that cancer kills an average of seven Filipino adults every hour. The death toll is recorded at 66,000 Filipinos per year.

Given the expensive medication and often minuscule chance of survival, the disease has created a culture of fear among patients.

Recently, however, a new sense of hope washed over the field of oncology in the country as cancer treatment takes another shape in a new approach dubbed as the multi-disciplinary team (MDT).

MDT is a prototype approach in the treatment of the deadly disease wherein a group of experts is formed to treat a patient instead of the conventional one-on-one method.

“Pulling these doctors in a multi-disciplinary setting would be able to streamline the management of cancer patients. And so, there’s better work and better coordination,” Dr. Dennis Sacdalan, oncologist and head of the Cancer Center of Medical Hospital, Manila (ManilaMed) said during a media briefing on the latest insight in cancer treatment at the Pearl Manila Hotel on 28 November.

Sacdalan added that patients will be able to cut down on resources under the MDT.

Instead of the traditional way where patients refer to various health professionals for different medications, MDT allows them to sit down with a team of oncologists and surgeons who will share their insights and diagnosis on his case. With this, patients will have a clear picture of their state, the treatments involved and the possible outcomes of their medication in just one sitting.

The MDT is also significantly cheaper than conventional medication, Sacdalan said. The approach creates better coordination among health professionals, which saves patients from repetition of treatments.

“Based on studies, several papers show that there is better survival associated if you have the MDT managing these cancer patients. With better survival and more remissions [and] less occurrences, I think the patient will end up saving more because you’re going to spare the patient from extra payments like admission payment bills. Initially, it may look like you’re going to spend more money, but in the long run it translates to better savings.”

When asked who will form the MDT, he explained that the attending physician may suggest who will be part of the team. The patient, likewise, has the right to ask for doctors he wants.

However, the implementation of the MDT currently remains limited. Sacdalan cited the deficit in medical practitioners as well as the lack of facilities as the main reasons for this.

Because of these limitations, the MDT is currently focused on patients who need more treatment and those who have more chances of survival.

The MDT is currently being implemented in various hospitals around Metro Manila, including ManilaMed and Manila Doctors Hospital.

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