Oncologist weighs in on herbal treatment for cancer

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 01 2023 07:34 PM

Are herbal or alternative medicines advisable for cancer patients?

Dr. Herdee Luna said if a patient opts to use alternative medicines, treatments for cancer like chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or surgery, should not be neglected.

She warned that delaying these proven treatments could increase the risk of death.

“As of now, the PSMO (Philippine Society of Medical Oncology) consensus and stand is for a complementary medicine. Complementary means hand-in-hand, hindi nagle-let go. Meaning, you get the proper surgery if needed. You get the proper medicine, for example, chemotherapy or targeted therapy if needed, or radiation. These are proven treatment options to breach survival,” Luna said in a press briefing.

“Alternative medicine, which means, doing herbal alone, not getting proper surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy if needed, increases death by 2.5 times. Why? Because of delay in seeking the proper care,” she added.

“Have a healthy dialogue with your clinician. We’re encouraging complementary medicine,” Luna noted.

She added that seeking early treatment can help reduce out-of-pocket expenses for patients, as it may prevent complications that often arise with delayed medication.

Luna also said cancer may not necessarily be a death sentence if given proper support.

“When you are in advanced stages, you need to control most of where the cancer is spread. Theoretically, may komplikasyon, mas magastos. That’s why ‘yung advocacy natin for detection, prevention, screening,” she said.

But four years since the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) was enacted, the target to equip selected hospitals in every region with sufficient facilities for cancer patients has yet to be completed.

For 2023, only P1.06 billion of the P327.21-billion national health budget was integrated to programs under NICCA.

While some P500 million is allotted for the Cancer Assistance Fund, which will complement existing financial support mechanisms like the Philhealth coverage and Malasakit funds.

“This is a building process. It’s the NICCA law. They have identified the hospitals, and then they’re equipping it, so hindi pa 'yan 100% na may radiation lahat ng facility. But these are the initiatives slowly building—a cancer center in every region,” Luna said.

“We want full support naman po, but right now, we’re working hand in hand with the government,” she added.