The war against cancer could be won if the government comes up with a policy that will put in place a comprehensive national screening program for the early detection of the dreaded disease, an oncologist has said.

Dr. Dennis Sacdalan of Manila Med (Medical Center Manila) said the best strategy to reduce cancer cases remains to be early detection, for instance through colonoscopy for colon cancer, mammography for breast cancer, and Pap smear for cervical cancer.

“We do promote screening. We try to promote it with relatives of patients because they may be at risk. To raise awareness, I hope we can promote some cancer prevention strategies or cancer screening procedures that can help detect cancer early, at the point where it is curable, even before it develops,” Sacdalan said.

He noted that cancer continues to be one of the biggest health problems in the country. In 2016, the Philippines had the highest incidence rate of breast cancer among 197 countries, according to the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society. A total of 12 Filipinos die of cervical cancer every day.

The Department of Health (DOH) has ranked colon cancer as fourth in terms of incidence and mortality, while lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and third in women.

“Screening procedures have been recommended worldwide to prevent or reduce deaths due to cancer. Studies have shown that certain screening procedures are needed to contribute to reducing mortality,” Sacdalan said.

Screenings, he said, can be conducted in hospitals that specialize in cancer, including government medical institutions designated by the health department as cancer centers.

Sacdalan further reminded that apart from early detection, having a healthy lifestyle is crucial to cancer prevention.

“Lifestyle has a lot to do with the risk of developing cancer. There are smoking and dietary factors. If you eat less of fiber and vegetables and more of food with high fat content, then you’re more at risk to develop colon and heart cancer. Obesity can also put you at risk of several cancers,” Sacdalan said, adding that stress also affects the immune system, which is responsible for checking the body for tumors.

Meanwhile, he said it is a misconception that smoking causes only lung cancer, pointing out that other forms of cancer, such as head and neck cancer, stomach cancer, and colorectal cancer, are associated with smoking.

This news originally appeared here.