Philippines: Doctor urges public to quit smoking, vaping to protect lung health

8 November 2022

By Analou de Vera, Manila Bulletin

A doctor from the Lung Center of the Philippines reminded cigarette and vape users that quitting such habits is an important way to protect their lung health and avoid diseases.

“Prevention pa rin, kaya talagang isinusulong din po natin iyong huwag magsisigarilyo ang ating mga kababayan (It’s still prevention. We really encourage our citizens not to smoke),” said Lung Center of the Philippines consultant Dr. Guia Elena Ladrera during a televised briefing on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Cancer is the third leading cause of death in the country from January to May of this year, based on the data of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Ladrera said that cigarette smoking may cause chronic diseases such as lung cancer.

Globally, at least two million people have lung cancer. “Nasa 60 to 75 percent po nito ay natatagpuan, unfortunately nga po, nandoon sa advanced stage of the disease (About 60 to 75 percent of these cases, unfortunately, are in the advanced stage of the disease),” she said.

Some of the symptoms of lung cancer include a cough that does not go away after two weeks, persistent chest pain, shortness of breath, blood discharge in ears, swollen face, hoarse voice, weight loss, among others, said Ladrera.

Meanwhile, Ladrera said that vaping is not also a safe alternative to cigarette smoking.

“Iyong Philippine College of Chest Physicians –samahan po ito ng mga lung specialists– isinusulong din namin ang ‘no to vape’ or any alternative to cigarette kapareho nga po ng e-cigarette dahil din nga may mga contents din ito na tumor-causing o tinatawag nating carcinogens (The Philippine College of Chest Physicians, an association of lung specialists—we are also promoting ‘no to vape’ or any alternative to cigarettes. Same with e-cigarettes, it also has contents that are tumor-causing or we what call carcinogens),” she said.

“There are still health issues associated dito sa vaping, dito sa e-cigarette kasi may pumapasok pa ring mga substances sa (with vaping and e-cigarettes because [they contain] substances [that] still enter the) lungs and we are still exposing the lungs to these substances that may be harmful,” she added.

The best way to quit is through cold turkey or stop smoking abruptly, said Ladrera. “Iyon pong biglaan is usually, iyan po ang aming niri-recommend,” she said.

Ladrera also said that the government has a counseling assistance hotline– the DOH Quitline 1558 of the Department of Health located at the Lung Center.

“Ito pong mga counselors natin ito, mga batikan na ho ito na alam na nila paano kayo matutulungan (Our counselors are experienced and they know how to help you),” she said.

In a related development, Ladrera said that the Lung Center has relaunched its lung cancer screening program for “high risk individuals.” This program is in line with the observance of Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

High-risk individuals are those with relatives who have or have had lung cancer but were never exposed to smoking. Another, are those people with at least “20 pack years” in smoking, said Ladrera.

“Mayroon po tayong outpatient department na puwede nilang puntahan para po malaman kung maaari nga silang mag-undergo ng screening (We have an outpatient department that they can go to in order to find out if they can undergo screening),” said Ladrera.

“Mayroon po tayong fund na nakalaan dito for the screening. At iyong ginagamit nating screening tool para sa lung cancer ay iyong tinatawag na (We have a fund that was set aside for this screening. And the screening tool that we’ll be using for lung cancer is the so-called) low-dose chest CT Scan,” she added. Ladrera noted that the low-dose chest CT Scan is “the best screening tool for early stage lung cancer” based on studies conducted in the US and Europe.

“Ito po naman ay isang 15-minute procedure, walang tusok, hihiga lang po ang pasyente, para po nga siyang nag-CT scan, pero sa mas maliit na dose na radiation. A little higher naman po ang radiation nito compared sa chest x-ray (This is a 15-minute procedure, no injection, the patient will just lie down, it’s like having a CT scan, but with a smaller amount of radiation. Its radiation is a little higher compared to chest x-ray),”she explained.