December 6, 2022

Surviving breast cancer starts from being familiar with oneself and seeking early consultation.

An expert from the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) said women, who are the most at risk of breast cancer, should make it a practice to regularly examine their breasts as this remains one of the best ways to survive the disease.

BGHMC Medical Specialist Karen Tadeo said while advances in technology provide women with access to screening, the most practical method to detect breast cancer is through regular self-breast examination.

Tadeo made the reminder as the country observes the Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

Regular self-examination allows women to be familiar with their breasts that will help them detect if there are abnormalities, such as lumps, thickening, and discharge.

Tadeo added early detection and early consultation also increases the survival rate of breast cancer patients.

“Breast cancer is curable if detected early. The survival rate of those who were detected early is 80 to 90 percent and this rate is years back,” she said.

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of sickness and deaths among women.

Tadeo said BGHMC does not have complete statistics as it is still establishing its cancer registry, but shared that of the 30 clients undergoing chemotherapy at the hospital, 15 or 50 percent of them, are breast cancer patients.

Just being a woman, she said, is already a risk factor for breast cancer, which is why their advocacy remains focused on self-breast examination and seeking early consultation.

Tadeo said those who detect lumps in their breasts should not worry, as 80 percent of lumps are benign or not cancerous.

“But they would still warrant an expert’s examination,” she said.

Aside from gender, age, and genes, the circumstances in a woman’s life events, such as menstrual period, pregnancy, and lifestyle can be contributory factors to breast cancer.

“If you are a woman, there is 12 percent chance that you will have cancer in your lifetime. Other risk factors are having a history of breast cancer in the family, those who have dense breasts, those who were exposed to chest radiation therapy, those who did not get pregnant or had late pregnancy, and those who did not breastfeed,” Tadeo said.

Screening programs are available to help prevent and treat breast cancer.

Tadeo said women 25 to 39 years old should undergo a clinical breast examination every three years to check for possible signs and symptoms of cancer.

Women 40 to 45 years old who want to detect early signs of cancer in their breasts may opt to undergo mammography, but the procedure becomes optional every two years for women 45 to 50 years old and yearly for women 50 years old and above.

A genetic testing and magnetic resonance imaging are available for those who are high risk of having breast cancer. BGHMC has a geneticist for possible genetic testing.

For those who want to resort to alternative medicines such as herbal supplements, Tadeo said “there is no strong evidence yet that it is helpful in their survival.”

She said PhilHealth has included in its health package benefits for cancer patients, such as surgical, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy to increase the survival of breast cancer patients. The Department of Health also provides hospitals with free medicines for breast cancer patients. – Jane B. Cadalig