Top 3 killer diseases in PH

By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

November 1, 2018, 10:54 am


MANILA -- All Saints’ Day and All Souls' Day – the season to think not only of the dead but also of dying.

Based on a popular myth, death and sickness came out into the world through a box. At present, sickness as a cause of death is a grim reality everyone will face in their lifetime.

According to the latest data from Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), around 66 Filipinos die every minute or 1,591 per day.

For the past decade, ischemic heart disease and cancer remains as the top two causes of death among Filipinos followed by pneumonia in the third spot.

Out of 582,183 registered deaths in 2016, some 74,134 cases or 12.7 percent of the total was due to ischemic heart disease. Cancer, logged 60,470 cases or 10.4 percent while pneumonia logged 57,809 cases or 9.9 percent for both males and females.

Ischemic heart disease

Ischemic heart disease occurs when the heart does not get enough supply of blood and oxygen due to narrowed arteries.

It is the top cause of death among Filipino men with 74,134 cases and the second cause of death among Filipino women with 29,662 cases in a year.

In an earlier interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Dr. Gino Quizon, a cardiologist of Medical Center Manila, mortality rate due to ischemic heart disease remains high, despite progress in its treatment because of the unhealthy lifestyle of most Filipinos.

Quizon advised against cigarette smoking and alcohol intake, and recommended sugar and cholesterol control, as well as stress management.


Cancer, also known as neoplasms, is characterized by the presence of a malignant growth or tumor which results from abnormal cell division. The most common types of neoplasms include uterine, urinary bladder, thyroid, soft tissue, prostate, ovarian, skin, lymph node, lung, kidney, gastric, anal, blood, bone, breast, cervical, esophageal and colorectal cancer.

According to PSA’s latest data, more Filipino women die from cancer compared to men, with 30,954 annual cases logged.

The Philippine Cancer Registry shows that breast cancer is the leading kind of cancer thst affects both sexes in the country at 24.9 percent.

Marcelo Severino Imasa, a medical oncologist at St. Luke’s Medical Center, told PNA breast cancer is the leading cancer type but it is not the leading cause of cancer death in the country.

“It is the leading cause of death because majority of the diagnosed lung cancer cases are already in the late stage. So, there is very little option available treatment that is curative in nature, if we could diagnose it early, in terms of cancer deaths, probably we could have a much lower rate,” he said.

Imasa stressed lung cancer by itself is aggressive.

“Even if they’re diagnosed early, maybe a quarter only of those diagnosed of lung cancer would live for five years or even less,” he said.


Pneumonia is the infection of both lungs. In the past decade, it claims the lives of 57, 089 Filipinos every year.

“It is mistaken by some as caused by lung cancer but pneumonia is not just due to lung cancer, anybody with a compromised immune system like elderlies, diabetics and patients undergoing dialysis they are considered at a high risk of contracting pneumonia,” medical oncologist Denky Shoji dela Rosa told PNA.

Dela Rosa explained that there is also a hospital-acquired or healthcare-related pneumonia which affects patients who have been confined hospitals for a long time.

“If we are hospitalized we are at risk of getting pneumonia, all patients brought to the hospital have in strong germs, when we give them antibiotics we are able to kill those, but what happens to the antibiotic-resistant bacteria? They weaken the immune system of patients,” she said.

Dela Rosa added that pollution could be a factor in contracting the disease but it all depends on how weak or strong the immune system of a concerned person is.

“So, it is important to emphasize that there are adult vaccinations, the flu vaccine which is given every year, anti-pneumonia vaccines so adults would decrease their likelihood of contracting the infection. It is avoidable to a certain extent but pneumonia is a common exit of many patients,” she said.

Other diseases

The other illnesses which cause death among Filipinos include cerebrovascular diseases with 56, 938 cases, hypertensive diseases with 33,452 cases, Diabetes mellitus 33,295 cases, other heart diseases with 28,641 cases, respiratory tuberculosis with 24,462 cases, chronic lower respiratory infections with 24, 2365 cases and diseases of genitourinary system with 19,759 cases.

Imasa told PNA that Filipinos in general seem to consult doctors only when the symptoms of their diseases are already severe, hence, their cancer or any disease is diagnosed already at a later or advance stage.

"Unlike in other countries, they can schedule for consultation and it is paid for by the government or by the insurance, here Filipinos would avoid seeing doctors because it entails cost them which could be allotted for food or education, it’s almost always an out-of-pocket expense," he said, adding that fixing the country's healthcare system could lead to lower mortality rate in the future. (PNA)