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PIA Press Release
Friday, January 20, 2012


Feature: Mindanao Cancer Center- A Dream Come True

It took a son of a cancer patient and a cancer survivor to make the dream of a cancer center in Mindanao come true.

Health assistant secretary Dr. Romulo Busuego, Davao Regional Hospital (DRH) chief of hospital took his persistent desire to have a cancer center at the DRH compound in Tagum City, as a dictate of his subconscious.

“You know, it was may be a subconscious to have that facility because my father died of cancer,” he said in an interview during which he bared how the grand dream of a Mindanao Cancer Institute sprung.

His personal experience coupled with keen interest to seriously deal with what he calls a “challenging disease” could be the force prompting him to sketch the plan of a facility that would provide a wholistic management of cancer diseases.

Wrestle for funding

Dr. Busuego could still recall how he wrestled more than 10 years ago with some cynics among his ranks of government medical officials who were skeptical about the idea of a Mindanao Cancer Institute in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

“Why in Tagum, why not in Davao City?” where among the questions thrown to him when he laid down his proposal for a facility specializing cancer treatment and care.

Resolved to fulfill his dream, he kept on pitching the idea to some others who care to listen. On the sides, he continued to prepare the groundwork of the Davao Regional Hospital to handle special care for cancer by improving the services of the hospital, until the systems parallel to the intention of providing special care for cancer, fell into place.

A government hospital 52-kilometers away from business and commercial center, Davao City, DRH has the capacity to handle heart and lung surgery and can handle kidney transplant. With its existing capacity, Dr. Busuego has no doubt that the hospital can also handle cancer treatment.

He did let go of the dream to see a cancer care facility to rise within DRH compound. This desire goes with his motto, “Never let go of your dream if you’re not yet ready to make it come true.” He firmly believes that “you can never go wrong when you think of your patient.”

Even before he was assured of funding for a cancer center, he worked with the city government of Tagum and the provincial government of Davao del Norte to acquire a two-hectare lot “for the future cancer center.” “Whether that can happen or not, we are coming with that property,” he said as he saw the need to prepare for the chance to corner funding for a cancer center.

Funding came

Congressman Anthony G. Del Rosario of 1st District of Davao del Norte had never thought that he would become the instrument of putting substance into dream of Dr. Busuego of having a cancer center.

Congressman del Rosario who was then Vice Governor of Davao Del Norte in 2004 had known the talks between DRH and DOH (Department of Health) about a cancer center. After undergoing cancer treatment in 2010, he was informed by Dr. Busuego that the planned cancer center still had no funding. Congressman del Rosario then took the cancer center as one of his priority initiatives.

“This is the first project that I requested from the President (Benigno Simeon Aquino III) in 2010, and eventually from (Budget and Management) Secretary ( Florencio “Butch”) Abad when they asked me what my priorities were,” he said in an interview.

He considered his efforts exerted in securing and ensuring the release of required funding for the construction of the cancer center and the purchase of the state-of-the art equipment as his greatest contribution to the establishment of such facility in Davao del Norte.

His fight with cancer has made him aware of the high cost of treatment of such disease. (Congressman del Rosario is a Lymphoma survivor who has undergone stem cell transplant in Stanford, USA.) He wants cancer patients in Mindanao, especially those in Davao del Norte, to have “easy access to advanced cancer treatments at minimal costs.”

The dream for a cancer center finally came into reality on January 8, 2012 when the Nuclear and Radiotherapy Center known as the Mindanao Cancer Center was inaugurated. The facility lies in a 5,280.80 sq meter lot at the back of DRH main building in Apokon, Tagum City.

A briefer released by DRH showed that putting up the Nuclear and Radiotherapy Center cost a total of P157,447,509.00. Of this amount, P23,047,509 went to building structure while P134,400,000 was spent for purchases of a state-of-the-art equipment.

Cancer center services

The facility is equipped with linear accelerator, a device used for external radiotherapy and designed with precision to destroy cancer cells while sparing the surrounding normal tissue. It offers four types of radiotherapy particularly External Beam Radiotherapy (XRT), Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT), 3-D Conformal Radiotherapy and Arc Therapy.

Dr. Busuego explained that there are three components in cancer management which involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. While high-end local hospitals in Davao City can do surgery and chemotherapy, radiation therapy is not readily available. It is offered in one hospital in Davao City but the cost is so prohibitive at about P100,000 or more to complete about 30 fractions or series of radiation therapy exposure, Dr. Busuego said.

With the Mindanao Cancer Center, Dr. Busuego assured Philhealth-insured patients included in National Household Targeting System (NHTS) list of nothing to pay. The radiotherapy at the Mindanao Cancer Center is also much cheaper for GSIS and SSS members who are entitled of discounts. For those with no discount guarantees, Dr. Busuego suggests them to avail of support funds from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of congressmen, and from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

Busuego said radiation therapy improves the quality of life a cancer patient as it stops the bleeding and gets rid of the foul-smell. Most importantly, it prolongs the patient’s life, giving him or her the chance to further “enjoy your life with your family.”

First cancer patient

The chance of stretching the days of her husband is what 40-year-old Jocelyn Suizo of Marilog District, Davao City hopes for when her husband starts his cancer treatment at the Mindanao Cancer Center.

“Nagpasalamat ko nga naa ni nga cancer center dinhi. Nagalaum jud ko nga maulian pa akong bana. (I am thankful of this cancer center here. I am hoping that my husband would get cured.),” says Jocelyn who reveals her husband of having stage 3 cancer.

Jocelyn is happy of the progress of her husband. Her husband who is the first cancer patient of the Mindanao Cancer Center. “Mas okey na siya karon, mas baskog na siya. (He is okey right now and he is more active.), ” she said in a chance interview at the lobby of the cancer center.

Indeed, a smiling cancer patient comes out of the radiotherapy room. He speaks of so much hope for his life and for his family while undergoing nuclear and radiotherapy treatment at the Mindanao Cancer Center.

The Dream continues

Busuego has seen the initial realization of his dream, and he is starting to hear the hopeful voices of cancer patients who are now coming for therapy. But he does not stop dreaming. He looks at the newly inaugurated Mindanao Cancer Center as a mere first phase of the Mindanao Cancer Institute. He foresees such cancer institute to offer the highest level of cancer care from administration, diagnostic, therapeutic, hospice and research.

With the cancer institute, Busuego has no doubt of the great difference it can make for Mindanao which has been plagued by many challenges from peace and order, health and disaster. Del Rosario likewise envisions the cancer center to develop into a facility at par with foreign hospitals, especially when it would continually be provided with advanced equipment and comfortable facilities and operated by the best medical practitioners in the field. (jeanevive duron-abangan, PIA-11)

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