The 2020 data from the Global Cancer Observatory revealed that breast cancer leads the incidence among cancer sites in the country. Breast cancer accounts for 17.6 percent of cases of cancer among the population.
The good news is, breast cancer does not develop overnight. Women across the Philippines can take charge of their breast health by equipping themselves with knowledge and information about breast cancer and general breast health is a major step in protecting oneself.
Dr. Ang Peng Tiam, medical director and senior consultant on Medical Oncology from Parkway Cancer Centre, explained that breast cancer is widely perceived to be an untreatable illness and is often likened to a death sentence.
“However, this is not necessarily so. Over the last 30 years, advances in cancer research have led to a better understanding of the disease at the molecular level, discovery of new treatments, and improvements in medical technology,” she said.
A first step in the right direction is to discern some common myths and misconceptions about the disease. Women with close relatives who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease. However, a sizable percentage of women with no known family history of the disease have also been diagnosed with breast cancer. While there is a higher risk for those who have a history of the disease, it does not follow that breast cancer can be inherited.
There is also no significant proof that antiperspirants, deodorants, bras, and birth control pills increase the risk of breast cancer. Also, having a healthy lifestyle does not guarantee protection from breast cancer. It is true that regular exercise, consuming the right food, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and having good sleep habits could lower the risk of breast cancer, but they do not remove the risk altogether. The hard truth is, there is still no specific known cause of breast cancer, only risk factors.
Dr. Ang said, “We advise patients to seek proper medical care when they develop any symptom that persists for more than two weeks or when symptoms recur after getting better initially.”
There is a wide variety of symptoms for breast cancer, the most common of which being a painless lump in the breast area. At the same time, there have been patients who manifest no signs or symptoms at all. Early detection is still the main protection against the onset of cancer.
In the very early stages of breast cancer, findings can only be discovered through regular health check-ups and mammograms.
Dr. Wong prescribes the following schedule: Breast self-checks can begin after puberty to menopause — once every month, and once a week after the start of period when the breast tissues are less tender. For post-menopausal women, once every month, a date easy to remember (e.g., first or last day of the month).
Mammogram for women without symptoms and normal mammogram findings from the preceding year while annually for 40 to 49 years old, and every two years for women 50 years old and above.
Treatment options such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy are available to improve survival rates and the quality of life.
Parkway Cancer has a comprehensive suite of treatment and improved techniques in pathology have allowed for more specific subtyping of cancers at the molecular level. These advances have led to new and innovative ways to manage cancer.
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