March 2, 2024

Here’s good news for breast cancer patients.
ICanServe Foundation, Inc. recently launched “You Can Do This: A Breast Cancer Patient’s Manual” in Baguio City.
Available for free download in English and Filipino, the manual is designed to support breast cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers on their journey to wellness.
Alya Honasan, a cancer survivor and ICanServe volunteer and editor of the manual, shared the manual was written by breast cancer survivors with input from experts in various fields, from psychiatry to palliative care. It is written in layman’s terms to help patients as well as their families and support groups at different stages on the journey.
It is a reminder that no breast cancer survivor is ever completely alone in this experience, she said.
To download, visit https://www.icanservefoundation.org/patients-manual.
“I believe that this manual is a must-have for any woman seeking accurate and accessible information about managing breast cancer today. Nobody wants to talk about it, but everybody needs to be informed. This manual we are launching is similar to the guidebook that got me through my cancer journey 18 years ago,” said Maria Victoria Bugasto, president of Minda’s Buddies, a Baguio-based breast cancer support group and an ICanServe Foundation, Inc. partner.
She said a cancer diagnosis is overwhelming. “When you are told that you have breast cancer, the first thing that you will think is that you are dying. But look at us, fighting! We, and everyone else in the Breast Cancer Awareness Movement say that breast cancer is no longer a death sentence. It is a life sentence because after you get diagnosed, you are guided, navigated, and led to treatment and survival. You live the rest of yourself and your days like it is the last but the world is so beautiful so you aim to continue living,” she shared.
Nikoy de Guzman, ICanServe president shared, “I can’t help but recall my first breast cancer diagnosis. I had it twice – in 2002, and 2015, so in 2002 information at that time about the disease is scarce or if there is information it’s hard to access it; obviously because the Internet as technology was not that easy.
So what or who was my manual? My mom, a breast cancer survivor herself who took care of me and encouraged me based on her own healing experience and her experiences while taking care of her mom, my lola who unfortunately succumbed to breast cancer. We are a family of breast cancer survivors, so as a long-time survivor, many newly diagnosed women or their loved ones come to me for advice. While I try my best, my answers tend to be insufficient, vague, or scattered. With this manual, I’m able to give sound advice – even for questions they haven’t asked – in a more organized manner.”
Abby de Leon, ICanServe volunteer, professional image consultant, and designer of the cover of the manual shared, “Having access to the right information when facing cancer is like a compass in a storm. It guides us towards informed decisions, empowers us with knowledge, and ignites a spark of hope in our hearts.”
Baguio City Health Services Office OIC Celia Brillantes encouraged breast cancer patients to have a copy of the manual.
“There are many reasons why this manual is important. The Internet is overflowing with information these days. However, the information there may not fit the specific needs of Filipinas. A breast cancer manual specific to the Philippine setting will offer reassuring and realistic information for women diagnosed with breast cancer in the country. I am sure this manual will provide more well-rounded information adapting to the unique Filipino culture.”
While it’s normal to hear breast cancer among women, men are not spared from said illness. According to Bugasto, there are at least five male breast cancer patients in Baguio.
Eliseo Balariz, Jr. narrated how he was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. He said he was playing basketball sometime in 2018 when he got hit in the chest. He didn’t think anything of it until a couple of months later when he felt something hard on his chest – on the same spot where he was hit. He went to his doctor who ordered a mammogram and ultrasound, followed by biopsies that showed he was positive for breast cancer stage 2. He underwent six chemotherapy sessions and radiation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer can have varying symptoms or none at all. Symptoms of breast cancer in males are similar to that of females which may include lump in the breast or underarm, change in size or shape of the breast, redness of breast skin and nipple discharge.
In addition, the risk of men getting cancer increases with age, mostly between 60 to 70 years old. However, chances of getting the disease can also be attributed to family history, radiation exposure, alcohol consumption, and obesity.
ICanServe Foundation, Inc. was founded in 1999 to provide information and as support group for women with breast cancer.
From a support group working to empower women with accurate information on breast cancer, it has evolved and expanded its advocacy to promote breast cancer control programs on the national and local level.
As a founding member of Cancer Coalition Philippines, ICanServe was instrumental in the passage of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act in 2019, the first legislation of its kind in Southeast Asia. The foundation continues to advocate for the full implementation of the law to ensure that no cancer patient is left behind.