The Medical City’s Augusto P. Sarmiento Cancer Institute

By Mark Louis F. FerrolinoSpecial Features Writer

Over the past years, cancer incidence has been steadily increasing, and is ranked as one of the leading causes of death in the Philippines. According to the Department of Health, four Filipinos die of cancer every hour, which translates to nearly 100 every day.

One key player helping curb this alarming epidemic is Augusto P. Sarmiento Cancer Institute (APSCI) of The Medical City (TMC), a premier health institution with more than 50 years of experience in hospital operation and administration in the establishment of its world-class health care organization.

Named after TMC’s chairman emeritus and one of the country’s top surgical oncologists, Dr. Augusto P. Sarmiento, APSCI raises the standard of cancer care with its set of advanced medical equipment and technologies, and top-notch cancer care professionals.

According to Dr. Beatrice J. Tiangco, member of the board of directors of TMC and consultant director of APSCI, the APSCI is barely a one-year-old cancer institute, inaugurated in August last year, although the TMC has been offering cancer programs and services as early as 2005 through its cancer center.

“The difference between a cancer center and the cancer institute is the presence of not just service, but also training and research in the latter,” Dr. Tiangco told BusinessWorld in an interview, adding that researches resulted in various developments that aim to improve the quality of life of cancer patients.

The APSCI adopts a unique multidisciplinary team approach to cancer prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and management. As Dr. Tiangco explained, they guide the patient from beginning to end through effective collaboration with various oncology practitioners with different specialties. With a full appreciation that no two individuals are alike, the institute also applies individualized approach to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer based on the patient’s profile at the molecular level.

In addition to these attributes, what sets APSCI apart from other cancer institutions, according to Dr. Tiangco, is its patient-centered care.

“It’s about putting the patient ahead of your own career, of your own earnings, of your own practice. It is also being humble enough to understand and realize that you don’t know everything and that you need help from your other colleagues, other specialties, in order to help the patient more,” she said.

The APSCI is composed of various units, equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, that offer innovative programs and services. Its Breast Center, for instance, operates the country’s first Stereotactic Mammotome Breast Biopsy System, which allows computer-guided, minimally invasive biopsies.

The center also operates a newly developed form of three-dimensional imaging of the breast called Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, which offers a clearer and more accurate view compared to digital mammography alone.

The Colorectal Unit, on the other hand, is capable of treating all stages of colorectal cancer with the use of advanced endoscopic and minimally invasive techniques for early stage disease, as well as appropriate aggressive surgery for advanced metastatic disease.

For cases of cervical cancer, the Women’s  Endometrium, Cervix and Ovaries (ECO) Clinic offers screening through Pap test and HPV DNA Test; diagnosis through colposcopy and examination of the cervix; limited, non-invasive cancer treatment through loop electrosurgical excision procedure, cryosurgery, and hysterectomy; and invasive cancer treatment through radical hysterectomy, external beam radiation, brachytherapy, and chemotherapy.

Meanwhile, for all stages of liver cancer, TMC’s Center for Liver Disease Management and Transplantation offers different treatment options which include surgery, local ablation, locoregional therapy, systemic therapy, and palliative care.

The APSCI also offers lung cancer screening through low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan; smoking cessation and relapse assistance and prevention program; comprehensive range of options for diagnosis such as bronchoscopy, transthoracic biopsy, and surgical biopsy; treatments that include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, molecular targeted therapy, and immunotherapy; and multidisciplinary approach and coordinated care for patients diagnosed with lung cancer to patients and family.

Treatment options for other cases of cancer, including those related to head and neck, brain and spinal cord, pancreas, prostate, and skin, are also available in TMC’s cancer institute.

While continuous developments take place in APSCI every day, said Dr. Tiangco, one recent and remarkable milestone the institute can be proud of is the arrival of the Intra-Operative Radiotherapy (IORT) and the Koelis machine for MRI Fusion Prostate Biopsy procedures.

Patient with doctor and staff at the PET-CT Center

The institute just also acquired the latest and most advanced PET-CT Scan machine, the Siemens Biograph MCT Flow with Flow Motion, that aids the assessment of cancer tumors, and helps its cancer care professionals to determine the most appropriate treatment option.

Aside from constant progress within the institute, Dr. Tiangco said that APSCI plans to play a bigger role in the community in the coming years. In this case, the institute, she said, needs to learn to work as a team not only within the TMC but with other hospitals as well, and even other parties including politicians, businessmen, educators and all other stakeholders.

“That’s the future, to be more relevant to the people around us,” Dr. Tiangco concluded.