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Cancer patients encouraged to seek social services


SOCIAL WORKERS are integral to patient care, as they provide patients and their families with information on financial and emotional resources that can help them cope more effectively, a social services consultant said.  

According to Cristina S. Hangod, former head of the social services department at St. Luke’s Medical Center, the social services offered in hospitals encompass referrals, pre-admission and discharge planning, social risk screening, patient counseling, psychosocial evaluations, health education, program consultation, planning activities, and research.  

“We discuss with the medical team where the patient will be going after discharge,” Ms. Hangod said at a Sept. 17 event organized by Lymphoma Philippines, a non-profit organization.  

“Since lymphoma is an immunocompromised case, we also conduct a home visit prior to the discharge of the patient, so we can prepare the family on how they will be attending to the patient in terms of hygiene … and emotional support,” she added.  

Ms. Hangod said that a patient under social services in a government hospital spends about P1.5 million from the time of diagnosis until the time of discharge. Professional doctor fees are waived and the room is free, although the patient will need to pay at least in part for the cost of medications and diagnostic procedures.  

In private hospitals, meanwhile, the cost for the same is about P2.5–3.5 million for both private and social services patients, although Ms. Hangod said part of the latter’s expenses are shouldered by the hospital.   

Tertiary level government hospitals that offer lymphoma treatments include the Philippine General Hospital, the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital and Medical Center. Private hospitals that offer the same include St. Luke’s Medical Center, Asian Hospital and Medical Center, and University of Santo Tomas Medical Center.  

Patients are classified according to their socioeconomic status, she added, with the percentage of the discount depending on this classification.  

Patients, in general, consolidate family resources — from insurance (such as membership benefits from one’s health maintenance organization as well as PhilHealth) to family assets (such as one’s business or savings) — to fund their treatments.  

Ms. Hangod shared the importance of being cognizant of cancer’s social impacts, and how the dynamics of relationships change, depending on the coping capacities of both the patient and their loved ones.  

“A student may forgo schooling, or a housewife may not be able to perform her responsibilities,” she said. “The patient may feel self-pity and ask, ‘Why me? My family is depending on me.’”  

Important, too, is for the patient to have advance directives, such as a living will and a legal document that authorizes another person to act on your behalf.   

“If the patient doesn’t want chemotherapy, or doesn’t want to stay in the hospital … what are the alternatives? These should be discussed early on,” said Ms. Hangod in the vernacular.  

Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the immune system’s infection-fighting cells called lymphocytes. The lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other areas of the body contain these cells, with lymphoma leading lymphocytes to change and increase out of control.  

Common symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes, chills, weight loss, fatigue — all of which are more likely to be caused by other conditions, such as an infection.  

 It is one of the top 15 cancers in the Philippines. Authorities estimate, however, that a large number of patients are left undiagnosed due to lack of awareness.   

“If people knew more about this cancer, maybe we could be more aware of our health and the symptoms that lymphoma can do to our body,” said Jeanne Ann Edillon, a cancer patient and survivor, who was initially unaware of the disease.   

Sept. 15 is World Lymphoma Awareness Day. — Patricia B. Mirasol 

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