The pink ribbon, the global symbol of breast cancer awareness, is back to remind everyone of the value of early detection and intervention for breast cancer, the most common type of cancer in the Philippines.
In 2018, breast cancer had the highest incidence among cancer cases in the country at 17.6 percent (for both sexes, 31.4 percent among females), with mortality rate recorded at 9.3 percent that year, according to the World Health Organization.
Globally, breast cancer is about 100 times more common in women than in men. Although it can manifest at almost any age, most cases occur over the age of 40, and the risk of developing the disease increases as one gets older.
These figures underscore the importance of early detection and intervention for breast cancer, especially for women aged 40 and above.
Early detection and intervention enable medical professionals to recognize the disease in its localized stage, which in turn opens up more options for treatment, and significantly increases the chances of survival for the patient. Hence, women are encouraged to be more proactive about the disease.
“Just going in front of the mirror to check for any visual or physical changes in the breast, at least once a month, can go a long way in making sure that breast cancer is detected as early as possible,” said Dr. Melanie Cruz of the Philippine Breast Cancer Society.
According to Dr. Cruz, a monthly self-assessment is usually enough for those who are aged 25 and below.
However, “once a woman reaches the age of 40, annual visits to the clinic for breast cancer assessment becomes a must.”
Experts say one of the most common reasons many women are not able avail of clinical assessments is the cost of consultations. Fortunately, there are a number of options available such as free consultations offered in community clinics.
With breast cancer consultations now carried out mostly online, Dr. Cruz said it is still important to avail of at least one physical consultation a year.
“While it’s understandable that people are turning to virtual consultations for breast cancer as a safety precaution, at least one physical session a year is recommended as there are things that can only be addressed by physicians face-to-face.”
This year, SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Supermalls, is supporting the breast cancer awareness advocacy through an information, education, and communication campaign that highlights the importance of early detection and intervention.
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