Cancer Treatment Assistance for Filipinos in 2021

Cancer care in the Philippines can be expensive. The economic impact of cancer alone can be devastating, especially in financially challenged families, as these costs are typically largely paid out-of-pocket by the patients.

Fortunately, many government and non-government organizations offer medical assistance to cancer patients to ease the financial burden brought by the disease. There are also national laws that aim to improve the accessibility of financial aid in the country, including the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA)1, and the Malasakit Centers Act2, which establishes the Malasakit Program that serves as a one-stop-shop of medical and financial assistance from several government agencies2.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, access to cancer care became difficult, especially during the first few months of community quarantine implementation. As the Philippines faces another year of the global health crisis, the need for more accessible cancer assistance programs continues to be a pressing challenge among patients.

COVID-19 Impact on Philippine Cancer Care Access

With the advent of the novel coronavirus in early 2020, the healthcare sector was forced to prioritize pandemic-related endeavors3. As a result, numerous medical institutions catering to cancer patients had to pause in-person operations temporarily and rethink their cancer care delivery amid a global health crisis3.

Hospitals for cancer patients in the Philippines

Quarantine protocols and physical distancing mandates also limited the movements of patients needing cancer treatments. In addition, the pandemic also impacted the economy negatively, making it harder for Filipino cancer patients to afford proper cancer care3.

???? Hospitals for cancer patients in the Philippines have also noted this. According to one hospital, in the pre-pandemic period, about 150-200 cancer patients visit their institution on a regular day for consultations and outpatient treatment3. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, patient visits drastically dropped by 90%3.

Indigent patients acquiring their medications through the hospital?s medical social services, charities, or non-government organizations were also affected by changes brought by the pandemic3. These sources of medical aid also shifted their attention to supporting COVID-19-focused efforts or halted their activities temporarily3.

These unprecedented times put cancer patients at high risk for treatment postponement, potentially exacerbating their health condition. 

The Landscape of Cancer Care Access in 2021

Compared to last year, where most healthcare efforts have been directed towards COVID-19 related endeavors, organizations are now able to refocus their attention to non-communicable diseases, including cancer.

Still, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, greater emphasis is placed on the importance of having reliable, accessible, and affordable sources for health assistance in the Philippines ? assistance that is ready to cater to patients regardless of the situation.

Many still await the full implementation of the NICCA, which may provide a special cancer fund that may assist in the procurement of expensive cancer medicine1. The program also proffers a special fund for cancer care that will not affect or reduce funds allocated for non-cancer healthcare.1

Additionally, there remains a lack of awareness among Filipinos with some medical assistance programs, which impedes access to timely cancer treatment. According to a 2020 cancer survey commissioned by MSD in the Philippines and conducted by IQVIA, an analytics, technology, and clinical research firm, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) are the most common funding sources known by Filipino cancer patients4.

On the other hand, many remain unaware of other available financial and medical assistance programs like the Malasakit Centers, which aim to make the application procedure easier and more convenient for cancer patients. Instead of going to various government agencies to apply for and process financial aid, cancer patients need only go to a single center, saving time in the process

Finding Programs for Cancer Treatment Assistance in the Philippines

It is ideal for cancer patients to have a checklist for finding financial and medical assistance in the country. Some items they can list down may include the following:

  • Know the different programs and options available in the country.
  • Ask their medical oncologist or cancer treatment team for the most suitable choice for their condition.
  • Prepare the requirements stated by the organization, e.g., IDs, documents, and other particulars.
  • Wait for the approval and grant of their application.

Because of the current pandemic, some organizations may allow no-contact applications to minimize the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19.

As a starting guide for cancer patients, here is a list of some of the government and non-government organizations and programs that offer medical assistance in the Philippines:

Government Organizations, Agencies, and Programs 5, 6:

  • Department of Health (DOH)
  • Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
  • Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR)
  • Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth)
  • Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO)
  • Senate of the Philippines
  • House of Representatives
  • Malasakit Centers in affiliated cancer hospitals in the Philippines

Non-Government Organizations and Programs5:

  • Redemptorist Church (Baclaran)
  • GMA Kapuso Foundation
  • St. John The Baptist Parish/Quiapo Church
  • Kythe Foundation
  • Andres Soriano Foundation


1 An Act Institutionalizing a National Integrated Cancer Control Program and Appropriating Funds Therefor (2019). Retrieved From Last Accessed October 14, 2021.

2 An Act Establishing Malasakit Centers in All Department of Health (DOH) Hospitals in the Country and in the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes (2019). Retrieved from Last Accessed October 14, 2021.

3 Mendoza, M.J., Tan, H.N., Hernandez, A.R., Dala, B.C., Sacdalan, D.B., Sacdalan, D.L., Cornelio, G., Ignacio, J.  (2020).  Medical oncology care amidst the COVID-19 pandemic at the National University Hospital in the Philippines. ecancermedicalscience, 14:1066. Last Accessed August 18, 2021.

4 IQVIA. (2021). Measuring Philippine Population?s Attitude and Belief Towards Cancer Full Report. Last Accessed October 14, 2021.

5 Philippine Cancer Society (n.d.). Find Medical Assistance. Retrieved from Last Accessed August 16, 2021.

6 Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (n.d.). Patient Support Programs and Groups. Retrieved from Last Accessed August 16, 2021.

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