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Asian Cancer Institute offers a sanctuary of support and care for breast cancer sufferers, survivors

by Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos

Thousands of lives are lost each year against the battle for breast cancer. But the country is not one to back out from the fight.

The Philippines has the highest incidence of breast cancer in Asia, with three out of 100 Filipinas developing this type of cancer in their lifetime according to the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology.

One out of four patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer succumbs to the disease within the first five years. It is also the leading killer of women ages 35 to 54 worldwide, with more than 1 million patients diagnosed, and 500,000 dying from it annually.

A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that in 2014, 27,900 women died of cancer here in the Philippines.  Of this number, 27.7 percent had breast cancer.

The threat continues to rise as it was also recorded that last year alone, more than 18,300 Filipinas were diagnosed with breast cancer.

Cancer prevention 

There are three kinds of cancer prevention – primary prevention (preventing the disease before it happens), secondary prevention (preventing the further development of pre-cancerous to stage 0 disease), and tertiary prevention (preventing the recurrence or metastatic progression of invasive breast cancer disease).

“The Philippines is developed mainly in the tertiary prevention of breast cancer (that is clinical treatment using surgery, drugs, radiotherapy and supportive care),” Dr. Corazon Ngelangel, Clinical Director of the Asian Cancer Institute said.

This includes the drive for more aggressive public information for a healthy lifestyle such as primary prevention like good nutrition, plenty of exercise, no to tobacco smoking, compliance to hepatitis B and HPV vaccination.

There are pockets of secondary prevention given by the Department of Health and the Philippine Cancer Society during the designated month of specific site cancer control (e.g., October for breast cancer screening using MMG, clinical breast exam; Pap smear for cervix cancer in May); but there is lacking a nationwide organized cancer screening program.

The AIC, which opened last year, houses a Breast Center as well as centers that offer various primary and secondary cancer prevention exams, such as mammograms, pap smear, and colonoscopy among many others. 

“ACI aims to do more for every Filipino. We really hope to be a one-stop shop for everyone, from early screening of individuals who have a history of cancer in the family to patients who have already been diagnosed with the disease and would want the best medical care. We aim to offer everything to them, this in essence is the kind of multidisciplinary care and comfort we provide,” Dr. Cherry Marquez, a medical oncology consultant adds.

Workshops for women 

Aside from having primary and secondary care for breast cancer patients, Dr. Corvera believes that giving integrated medicine can also give help for them to survive and fight for their battles.

Aside from medical procedures, AIC also has complementary and integrative medicine.

These are used together with conventional medicine in a deliberate manner that is personalized, evidence-based, and safe.

The clinic offers various workshops on topics like: Nutrition, herbs, acupuncture, art, music, laughter, aromatherapy, Yoga, and spiritual care, journaling. These are given with proper counseling beforehand to put into perspective the safety, cost, and effectiveness of the aforementioned services.

Cancer support groups are also present in the facility to aid the patients and their families as they go through this ordeal.

“These support groups are vital in the fight of any individual against cancer,” Dr. Marquez said. “By sharing their experiences with one another they build a community that serves as a support system not only for the patients but also for the families and that is important.”

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