The whole month of June is declared as No Smoking Month. This month, health advocates headed by New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) aim to bring public awareness on the ill effects of smoking. Tobacco smoke contains chemicals that are harmful to both smokers and nonsmokers. Of the more than 7,000 harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, 70 are known carcinogenic. These cancer-causing chemicals include the following: acetaldehyde, aromatic amines, arsenic, benzene, beryllium (a toxic metal), cadmium (a toxic metal), chromium (a metallic element), ethylene oxide, formaldehyde, vinyl chloride to mention a few.
Smoking causes cardio pulmonary diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (chronic bronchitis and emphysema), diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts, and worsens asthma symptoms in adults. Smokers are at higher risk of developing pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other airway infections.
In addition, smoking causes inflammation and impairs immune function. Smoking is a leading cause of cancer and death from cancer. It causes cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon, and rectum, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
“Nicotine in tobacco is addictive” Engr. Emer Rojas, president of NVAP and Global Cancer Ambassador reiterated. “I started smoking in high school. From a few sticks to three packs a day until I acquired throat cancer. At that time, I was at the prime of my life in my productive years. Receiving the cancer diagnosis, was a big challenge in our lives. There was no choice but to go on, as my youngest son was only 8 years old then” recalled Rojas. His journey thru cancer would not have been successful if it weren’t for the support of his wife, Volet. “She helped me through the pain, and struggle of chemotherapy. The support of loved ones and family members is essential in the battle of patients against the big C.” Rojas continued on.
Cancer advocate and president of Touched by Max Foundation, Dr. Daryl Lapada, joins Engr. Emer Rojas in the campaign for cancer awareness. “In my practice as a doctor, it is very unfortunate and frustrating to witness the patients dying unnecessarily and helplessly.” observed Lapada.
“Cancer affects everyone – the young and old, the rich and poor, men, women and children – and represents a tremendous burden on patients, families and societies. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world, particularly in developing countries. Many of these deaths can be avoided. Over 30% of cancer can be prevented by healthy life style such as quitting tobacco, drinking moderately, eating healthy food like vegetables and fruits, grains and fiber, and exercising regularly. Lapada continued on, “At present, there is a low cancer prevention consciousness and most cancer patients seek consultation only at advanced stages.”
When diagnosed with cancer, a range of treatment option is offered to the patient. Almost always, surgery is recommended. Cancer treatment is usually expensive.
“I remember spending all our life savings on Emer’s chemotherapy. There came a point when we had to sell our properties and jewelries to finance his chemotherapy” recalled Volet Rojas, wife of Engr. Rojas.
Today , Emer speaks with an external voice box known as assistive speech device to make his voice audible. His larynx was surgically removed due to cancer. He speaks like a robot , which renders him very effective in his advocacy against tobacco smoking.
Cancer is not a death sentence, and it is preventable. Early detection and early treatment decreases the risk of dying from cancer.
Together, Health advocates like Rojas and Lapada give hope to cancer patients. Speaking from their experience not to give up on life. “Habang buhay, may pag-asa, kahit may cancer, may pag-asa!” their battle cry to cancer patients.