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Designing a better future for the breast cancer community


Cancer patient group ICanServe Foundation, in partnership with US-based non-profit organization Global Focus on Cancer, will host this year’s Southeast Asian Breast Cancer Symposium (SEABCS) in Manila from Sept. 23 to 25. 

Each year, SEABCS gathers the region’s cancer survivors, patient advocates, health professionals, researchers, and policymakers in order to exchange ideas, share successful strategies, and keep up with the latest in breast cancer, as well as the many challenges that face the breast cancer community on a personal, local, national, regional and international level. 

Carrying the theme “Designing a Better Future for the Global Breast Cancer Community,” the event seeks to improve the quality of life of breast cancer survivors by enhancing key aspects of the cancer continuum of care from prevention, early diagnosis, treatment, palliative care to survivorship and hospice.  

It will also provide advocates with data and best practices needed to influence positive change in the health systems of their countries. The conference will likewise be an opportunity for the region to come together to continually find common ground for collaboration. 

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Filipino women, and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country. 

Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 deaths in 2020. By the end of the same year, the WHO added that there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past five years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that women can take steps to lower their risks for breast cancer, such as: maintaining a healthy weight; exercising regularly and voiding or limiting alcohol intake; breastfeeding children; seeing a doctor if there is family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in BRCA1 (breast cancer gene 1) and BRCA2 (breast cancer gene 2). 

Women can have different symptoms of breast cancer — some do not have any signs or symptoms at all, the CDC noted. Warning signs of breast cancer include a new lump in the breast or underarm (armpit); thickening or swelling of part of the breast; irritation or dimpling of breast skin; redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast; pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area; nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood; any change in the size or the shape of the breast; and pain in any area of the breast. If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, see your doctor immediately. 

The Department of Health (DoH) emphasized the importance of regular breast self-examination (BSE) and the critical role of regular mammograms in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer.  

“Kamay Gabay, Sariling Salat sa Suso,” a series of four-minute animated BSE tutorial videos in Cebuano and Tagalog, aims to teach Filipino women how and when to do BSE and raise awareness on the importance of regular BSE to facilitate early detection and prompt treatment of breast cancer. 

“Unlike other cancers, breast cancer can be screened and diagnosed early. Performing BSE regularly makes women aware of their breasts and they will be the first to notice any notable changes. It is important to perform BSE especially during the pandemic when many women are afraid of going to the hospitals whether they be non-breast cancer patients going for a routine screening, cancer patients on treatment or cancer survivors on their regular checkup,” said Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, founding president of ICanServe. 

Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), which represents the biopharmaceutical medicines and vaccines industry in the country. Its members are at the forefront of research and development efforts for COVID-19 and other diseases that affect Filipinos. 

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