Health Track 1: Stress Management

The first health track for the GAD Summit revolved around managing one’s stress. Dr. Ronald Del Castillo, Associate Professor of health and policy administration and of behavioral sciences in the University of the Philippines Manila, defined stress as an instance when we face a situation and our ability to cope is challenged; usually stress is the condition or experience in which a person perceived that demands exceed the personal and social resources – it can be a positive or negative experience, depending on the source of the stress:

  • Change in the environment / occupation
  • Family-related
  • Physical strain

Dr. Del Castillo stated that stress in the workplace is unavoidable, and it affects both employee and employer in either in a positive or negative way. He explained that stress can affect a person in an individual level, as well as in a societal level. When left alone, stress can gravely affect one’s emotional, behavioral,  physical, and spiritual faculties.

Dr. Del Castillo also gave tips on how to cope with stress. First, he stated that one needs to identify the source of one’s stress. Once the source has been found, one can use self-care methods to channel the negative energy from stress into something useful and productive. This includes exercising, socializing, taking breaks, eating healthy, avoid drinking, practicing healthy sleeping habits, having a good sense of humor, and knowing one’s limits.

He closes his session by stating that managing stress involves introspection – one should be knowledgeable of the outside stimuli that makes a person stressed out. Essentially, the more you know about yourself, the more you can manage your stress levels.

Health Track 2: Cervical Cancer with Dr. Herdee Luna

To give the proper information and awareness on Cervical Cancer was Dr. Herdee Gloriane Luna. Her speech fostered the audience with enlightenment on the issues surrounding cervical cancer.

Having introduced cervical cancer as the 5th most common cancer, the participants were drawn in learning more about the disease, especially its preventive measures. According to the Department of Health (DOH), 12 women’s lives are claimed each day because of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus or womb that connects to the vagina or the birth canal. To fully understand cervical cancer, she led the audience in understanding cancer and the anatomy of the female reproductive system.

Cancer is the growth of abnormal cells, which can invade and damage normal cells. The main cause of nearly all cervical cancer is human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, usually sexual contact.

HPV, Dr. Luna mentioned has 150 different strains, and among those strains are high risk and low risk. Low risk HPV’s can appear in the form of vaginal warts, while it is the high risk HPV that cause cervical cancer. Over 90% of HPV will heal, but around 10% will persist and if it incubates, it will lead to cervical cancer. Dr. Luna promotes awareness because most women with HPV may not get any symptoms.

Along with the causes of cervical cancer, are the risk factors or factors which can increase or decrease a person’s chance of getting a disease.

  1. HPV infection – Dr. Luna warned that this is extremely common in women who engage in unprotected sex. Though most HPV infections can be treated with the use of creams and medication.
  2. Not getting screened – She identified this as the main risk factor, as getting screened is of utmost importance in determining whether an HPV infection is present.
  3. Smoking – Smoking, she says makes women twice as more likely in acquiring cervical cancer.
  4. Weak Immune System – Weak immune system, possibly due to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can make the healthy cells more susceptible to cancer cells.

Dr. Luna reiterated the importance of cervical cancer screening as it is important to find cancer early on for people who have no symptoms, and can also find cancers that that can still be cured; and pre-cancerous changes that can be treated to prevent from further developing.

Cervical cancer screenings are done with

  1. Pap tests
  2. HPV tests

Some guidelines which Dr. Luna mentioned for Cervical Cancer Screening:

  1. Women under age 21 should not be screened
  2. Women aged 21-29 should have pap tests every 3 years; and HPV testing should not be used unless needed as a follow up after an abnormal Pap test result.
  3. Women aged 30 and above should preferably have pap test with an HPV test every 5 years which should be continued until age 65; or a pap test every 3 years.

What Dr. Luna advises to do to prevent cervical cancer?

  1. Avoid being exposed to HPV: This can be done by avoiding certain types of sexual behaviour such as having sex at an early age and having many sexual partners. The use of condoms can also help in preventing HPV.
  2. Don’t smoke.
  3. Get vaccinated. HPV vaccines are safe and effective.
  4. Routine cervical cancer screening is still necessary for women who have been vaccinated, as it is a well-proven way to prevent cervical cancers and find pre-cancers.

Health Track 3: Talk on Prostate Cancer

Dr. Marcelino Morales discussed the basics on what people need to know about prostate cancer. Many were anxious in asking how to avoid it, but unfortunately so, according to Dr. Morales, there are no sure way to do this.  Men, on the other hand, have alternatives in dealing with the risk primarily through prudent visits to the doctor.

Cases of prostate cancer in Filipinos is not as frequent compared to African and western countries. This, however, does not warrant any Pinoy from ignoring the probability. According to Dr. Morales, cases among Filipino males have been increasing over the years. He said that our adoption of western cultures may have contributed to this.

Cancer begins when abnormality in a cell evolves, leading it to multiply and not follow the usual cycle wherein cell death is necessary. Cancer cells multiply without dying and eventually forms tumors. This is generally true to cancer cases and not exclusive to prostate cancer.

The prostate, also, does not grow larger than usual just because of cancer. Benign growth of the prostate is common to most men and has been observed to display similar symptoms as to prostate cancer. This, on the other hand is not as much of a threat to life compared to malignant growth or cancer.

Dr. Morales iterated the importance of early detection of cancer. He said that the success rate of curing the cancer increases the earlier it is treated. “Earlier removal has a better chance of not having recurrence.” In contrast, very late stages are no longer considered for operation, instead, alternative solutions or treatments are presented to the patient.

Knowing the identified risk factors is important to early detection. Dr. Morales gave the three basic prostate cancer risk factors:

  1. Age –Men aged over 65 are more prone according to statistics, while it is very rare to men below 45 years of age.
  2. Family history – Having a relative who had prostate cancer increases one’s risk
  3. Race – prostate cancer is very common to African men, less common to Hispanic, and even least common to Asia-pacific.
  4. Certain prostate changes – Men with cells called high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) may be at increased risk of prostate cancer.
  5. Certain genome changes – Researchers have found specific regions on certain chromosomes that are link to the risk of prostate cancer.

Further self-observation could also help in detection. Even being on the better side of the risk factors, one may experience the following symptoms that may be precursors to prostate cancer:

  1. Urinary problems
    – Difficulty in urinating

    • not being able to pass urine
    • having a hard time starting or stopping the urine flow
    • needing to urinate often, especially at night
    • weak flow of urine
    • urine flow that starts and stops
    • pain or burning during urination
  2. Difficulties in getting an erection
  3. Blood in the Urine
  4. Blood in the Semen
  5. Pain in the lower back

Although the following could be symptoms of prostate cancer, there really is no way of telling other than actual medical examination according to Dr. Morales. To help Filipino men get proper medical attention, the Philippine Urological Association provides free Digital Rectal Examination every father’s day at several participating hospitals.

If in case cancer is detected, the experts would also identify its grade and further examinations could determine its level. Cancer growth rate is rated using the Gleason grading system. Higher grade cancer is expected to grow and spread faster and the opposite is expected of those having a lower grade.

On the other hand, Staging is based on how widespread the cancer already is in the patient’s body. Stage 1 is used to refer to cancer isolated in the prostate, and stage 4 is when cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body.

After his presentation, Dr. Marcelino Morales, Jr. was asked questions regarding the topic. Most notable is his answer to the information spreading over the web about pregnancy test kits being able to diagnose prostate cancer. He didn’t deny its possibility, but rather he claimed that he has no knowledge of it, and expressed his interest to dwell about the issue more by doing some studies with his colleagues.

Also during the discussion, he clarified that the chances of getting prostate cancer has nothing to do with sexual activity or frequency of ejaculation. He also again emphasized on the fact that there are no proven practices in avoiding the disease, and only through medical examinations can the cancer be found.

He also addressed a concern of most women regarding taking their husbands for a check-up or treatment.

“Kapag sinabing St. Lukes, mahal!” – In response to this, he informed everyone in the audience that the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City offers a cheaper alternative to St. Lukes; offering equivalent equipment and expertise for a lower premium and even has discounts for government employees.

Health Track 4: Eating Healthy for a Better Life

Finally, Ms. Stephanie Dorosan closes the GAD Summit by providing tips on how to have healthier eating habits for a better life. In her presentation, she pointed out that one of the common Filipino ailments is Hypertension, Diabetes, Cardiovascular diseases, and Cancer.

The sources of the ailments are due to the following:

  1. Hypertension
    1. Blood pressure 140/90 mm/Hg
    2. 3% of ages 20 and above are hypertensive; and is highest among 50-59 year-old people (2013 study)
    3. Males have higher prevalence
    4. Vices are more likely the source
    5. Risk Factors
      1. Age
      2. Family History
      3. Overweight
      4. Sedentary Lifestyle (People with no physical activity)
      5. Dietary Choices
      6. Stress
  2. Diabetes

    1. Types

        1. Type 1 (Insulin dependent) – pancreas fail to produce insulin
        2. Type 2 (Non-insulin dependent) – insulin produced is ineffective
      • Diabetes prevalence is 5.4% among adults (8th National Nutrition Survey)
      • Highest among 60-69 year-old people
      • Risk Factor
        1. Obesity
        2. Family History
        3. Sedentary Lifestyle (People with no physical activity)
        4. Prior Gestrational Diabetes Diagnosis (Diabetes developed through preganancy)
        5. High Blood Pressure
        6. History of Heart Disease
        7. Low HDC Levels (Good cholesterol)
        8. High Triglyceride levels (fat found in blood)
      • Common Symptoms
        1. Fatigue
        2. Polyuria (excessive urination)
        3. Polydypsia (excessive thirst)
        4. Polyphagia (excessive hunger)
        5. Weight loss
        6. Blurry vision
        7. Irritability
        8. Wounds that won’t heal
  3. Cardiovascular Diseases

    Risk Factors:
    Family History
    Sedentary Lifestyle (People with no physical activity)
    Dietary Choices
    High Blood Pressure
    Raised blood glucose
    Cholesterol levels
    Common Symptoms
    Shortness of breath
    Chest pains

  4. Cancer
    1. Uncontrolled growth and spread of cells
    2. Growths often invade surrounding cells and replace them
    3. Common cancers:
Lung Breast
Prostate Lung
Stomach Cervical
Liver Stomach

Risk Factors include:

  1. Age
  2. Alcohol
  3. Cancer-causing substances (asbestos)
  4. Chronic Inflammation
  5. Diet
  6. Obesity
  7. Radiation
  8. Tobacco / Smoking

After providing a snapshot of the common Filipino ailments, Ms. Dorosan gave some guidelines geared towards a healthier diet, which includes:

a.  Choosing a variety of food everyday
b. Eat more vegetables and fruit
c. Consume fish, lean meat, poultry, egg, dried beans, or nuts
d. Consume milk and related products that have calcium
e. Consume safe foods and water
f. Use iodized salt
g. Limit intake of salty, fried, fatty, and sugar-rich food

When planning a healthy meal plan, Ms. Dorosan suggests a mix of basic food groups which include rice, bread, root crops, fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, etc. According to her, a healthy meal consists of 50% Glow, 25% Grow, and 25% Go food.