By Allan Maestrado Mediante
We were on our 47th year of married life, when we were faced with anxiety and dilemma – the possibility of my wife having a cancer on her left breast. It was 2008, and my wife Ruby, has just retired from the Department of Education as chairperson of the English department of the Bukidnon National High School in Malaybalay City.
A Hurting Dilemma . She secretly told me that a year before, she was feeling the signs of breast cancer like having mumps on her breast and in her armpit. She added that she did not go to any doctor for medical examination because she is afraid to face any adverse medical findings. Much more, she does not want to make our children worried and burdened with depression.
On that fateful day, when she finally decided to tell the whole family that she may have breast cancer because she is feeling the signs and was depressed, we did not know how to handle that situation. I and the children urged her to submit to a medical examination immediately. However, she refused and insisted that she will fight the cancer her own way through natural and herbal cure.
We struggled with anxiety and depression and consoled each other that Providence will make a way to restore her health. We all participated in spiritual activities such as joining Church organizations to ask prayers for our family.
The whole year after accepting that bitter and hurting reality, we kept the depression to our own selves and tried to live life the way we did before.
When she turned into drinking alcoholic drinks, the children quietly accepted the fact that their Mama may somehow find solace in such indulgence. However, she become addicted to it and wanted to drink every night (maybe to lighten her depression). We cannot refuse. So we just went on supporting her decisions.
A year after her retirement we decided to go abroad. The children also agreed that she should enjoy her retirement and going abroad to visit places is good for her.
So on 2009 we opted to go to the United States on a tourist visa. I went first and my wife followed after a month. We first enjoyed travelling to nice places in California. Then the itch to earn prompted us to work as care=givers. During our almost two years in California, she did not complain of any unwanted pain but she continued drinking alcoholic drinks.
Then we transferred to New York and stayed there almost 2 years. Still, she worked as care giver and it was on the 3rd week of May 2011 when she called me by phone asking me to fetch her from her place of work in Upper New York. She said he is feeling dizzy and is having a painful headache. The following day we went to a hospital. After a physician examined her initially, she was told that her left breast should be removed by surgery but assured here that it would be replaced with a nice synthetic breast.
The next day we went back to the hospital again for another check-up because her eyes and skin has become yellowish. After another CT Scan by another doctor, I was told that my wife is already in Stage 4 of breast cancer and the secondary cancer cells had already spread from to her breast to her liver. The doctor told us that she should go back home so she could still see our children and grandchildren. So she took the plane home accompanied by my sister. Still, she did not lost hope and told me to stay and work so I can send her money as she opted to have natural therapy. She had a one week treatment of natural medicine in a clinic in Manila. She also took natural juice drinks which were advertised as cancer cure. Then she went home to Malaybalay. She died 5 days later in our house in Kalasungay, Malaybalay City. I was so emotionally devastated that I immediately flew home after my daughter called me up and told me that her Mama was gone. We buried Ruby in June 13, 2011. She lost the fight against the deadly ailment, but we admired her bravery and she remained the champion in our hearts.
Can We Evade the Causes of Breast Cancer?
Medical experts say that we should consider the risk factors contributory to breast cancer which you cannot change such as:
1. Getting older. …
2. Genetic mutations. …
3. Reproductive history. …
4. Having dense breasts. …
5. Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases. …
6. Family history of breast or ovarian cancer. …
7. Previous treatment using radiation therapy. …
8. Contraceptive pill
Getting older. Age matter in breast cancer. I agree to that, since in my own personal experience, I had known three women who had breast cancer in their older age. First my wife Ruby, was 58 when she was hit by the cancer of the breast. Earlier, when I was about 19 years old, my Aunt who was also a public school teacher had breast cancer and died when she was 60 years old. Then a close family friend and confidant of my wife, and who was also her co-teacher, died of last stage cancer when she was 65 years old.
Maam Maggie, a 44-year old public school teacher whom I have interviewed told me that her younger age could be contributory to her survival. She said she already completed radiation treatment and is still continuing her chemotherapy sessions. She is hoping that she could be a cancer survivor because she feels okay up to this day. However, she confided that she is still not sure of a 100 percent recovery, and that she is lifting it all to God’s will for the cure of her ailment.
A physician friend told me that when we get older we are prone to any form of diseases or health problems, because our immune system becomes weaker as we age along.
This could be one cause why my wife contracted breast cancer, so does my aunt Mrs. Simeona Mediante, and our family friend, co-teacher of my wife Mrs. Rosario Aguilar
Genetic mutations. As published on-line by the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, National Science Complex, College of Science, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City, “The genes most commonly affected in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer are the breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer 2 (BRCA2) genes. About 3% of breast cancers (about 7,500 women per year) and 10% of ovarian cancers (about 2,000 women per year) result from inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.”
It added that “ahereditary predisposition to breast cancer significantly influences screening and follow-up care for high-risk women. A specific predisposing gene is identified in <30% of cases, the majority of which are due to a rare high-penetrance gene mutation
I remembered that Ruby’s mother and older brother died of Leukemia – a cancer of the blood. There could also be genetic mutations in their family, according to another doctor.
Reproductive History – has profound effects on women’s risk of breast cancer. There is an increased risk of developing the disease associated with early menarche, a later menopause, and the absence or delay in childbearing, and pregnancy. Associated breast cancer carries an elevated risk of mortality according to medical experts.
In 1971 researchers from Frontiers in Oncology (founded in 2007 by Henry Markram and Kamila Markram, two neuroscientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland) linked prenatal (while in the womb, or in utero) drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure to a type of cancer of the cervix and vagina called clear cell adenocarcinoma in a small group of women.
The researchers said that Diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic form of the female hormone estrogen, was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, premature labor, and related complications of pregnancy. The use of DES declined after studies in the 1950s showed that it was not effective in preventing these problems, although it continued to be used to stop lactation, for emergency contraception, and to treat menopausal symptoms in women.
Soon after, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified health care providers throughout the United States that DES should no longer be prescribed to pregnant women. However, until 1978, the DES drug was still prescribed to pregnant women in Europe.
In medical circles, DES is now known to be an endocrine-disrupting chemical, one of a number of substances that interfere with the endocrine system to potentially cause cancer, birth defects, and other developmental abnormalities. Several studies have found increased risks of premature birth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy in females exposed to DES in utero.
An analysis of updated data published in 2011 determined the cumulative risk of various fertility complications in daughters of DES takers as follows:
Having dense breasts. Breast density reflects the amount of fibrous and glandular tissue in a woman’s breasts compared with the amount of fatty tissue in the breasts, as seen on a mammogram, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA). It also said that “On a mammography report, breast density is assigned to one of the following four categories—
- The breasts are almost entirely fatty (about 10% of women).
- A few areas of dense tissue are scattered through the breasts (about 40% of women).
- The breasts are evenly dense throughout (about 40% of women). This may be called “heterogeneously dense” on the mammography report.
- The breasts are extremely dense (about 10% of women).
Women in the first two categories are said to have low-density, non-dense, or fatty breasts. Women in the second two categories are said to have high-density or dense breasts. About half of women who are 40 years old or older have dense breasts.
CDC adds that “Women with dense breasts have a higher chance of getting breast cancer. The more dense your breasts are, the higher your risk. Scientists don’t know for sure why this is true. Breast cancer patients who have dense breasts are not more likely to die from breast cancer than patients with non-dense (fatty) breasts.”
Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases. Susan J. Komen, a cancer care specialist found out that “Women who’ve had breast cancer in the past have a higher risk of getting a new breast cancer than women who’ve never had breast cancer
A new breast cancer is called a second primary breast cancer. Unlike a recurrence (a return of the first breast cancer), a second primary tumor is a new cancer unrelated to the first. These tumors usually occur in the contralateral (opposite) breast rather than in the same breast as the first cancer.”
Family history of breast or ovarian cancer. The NIH National Library of Medicine (USA) says that “A family history of breast cancer has been associated with increased ovarian cancer risk. However, few studies have assessed risk according to characteristics that suggest an inherited cancer susceptibility disorder, such as earlier-than-usual age at cancer diagnosis, family members with double primary cancers of different types, multiple relatives with cancer, and cancer in both members of paired organs.” People with a family history of breast, ovarian or prostate cancer have an increased risk of breast cancer. The increased risk is likely due to genetic factors but may also be due to shared lifestyle factors or other family traits. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer don’t have a family history of the disease.
Komen added that in her further findings, about 15% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a first-degree female relative (mother, sister or daughter) who’s also had it. A woman who has a first-degree female relative with breast cancer has about twice the risk of a woman without this family history. If she has more than one first-degree female relative with a history of breast cancer, her risk is about 2-4 times higher . In general, the younger the relative was when she was diagnosed, the greater a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer .
“For example, a woman whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40 has about twice the risk of a woman without this family history. For a woman whose mother was diagnosed at an older age, the increase in risk isn’t as high,”she added.
Previous treatment using radiation therapy. The Mayo Clinic (USA) explains in an Internet post that “Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, is a type of cancer treatment that uses beams of intense energy to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy most often uses X-rays. Also, other types of radiation therapy exist, including proton radiation.
Modern methods of radiation are precise. They aim beams directly at the cancer while protecting healthy tissues from high doses of radiation. Radiation therapy can be given inside or outside of your body. The most common kind is external beam radiation therapy. This treatment uses a large machine called a linear accelerator. High-energy beams are aimed from the machine to a precise point on your body. Radiation treatment that goes inside the body is called brachytherapy. It is also a common cancer treatment. In this therapy, a provider places a small solid implant in or near the cancer of the patient.
Radiation therapy damages cells by destroying their genetic material. Genetic material controls how cells grow and divide. Healthy cells may be damaged along with cancer cells during radiation therapy. But healthy cells can repair themselves more easily than cancer cells. The goal of the radiation therapy is to treat the cancer while harming as few healthy cells as possible, according to the Mayo Clinic report.
It added that certain medical procedures that use radiation, such as X-rays and CT scans, may slightly increase your risk of developing breast cancer. If you had radiotherapy to your chest area for Hodgkin lymphoma you should make immediate consultation with a specialist to discuss your increased risk of developing breast cancer.
An aunt of mine who died of last stage breast cancer in 1970, has undergone radiation therapy and chemotherapy, but to no avail. (Maybe due also to old age).
Use of Contraceptive Pill – Research shows that women who take the contraceptive pill have a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer. However, the risk starts to decrease once you stop taking the pill, and your risk of breast cancer is back to normal 10 years after stopping. (Cancer Research UK)
Victims See Other Causes of Breast Cancer.
Maam Maggie who has already completed radiation therapy and is presently continuing her chemotherapy sessions, says she felt fine with the treatments. She is however, only 40 years old.
1. Depression. It could have played a major role when she contracted breast cancer, according to Maam Maggie. “I was suffering from it because my philandering husband left me. Since that day on, I was always feeling depressed due to the burdens of raising a family alone. Maybe that’s how my breast cancer started, but I have to fight.” Other than that, she said she also believe that eating unhealthy food (frozen foods with artificial flavor; junk food, and consumption of alcoholic drinks can cause breast cancer.”
Depression and old age could have also caused the last stage breast cancer of my patient, according to Mrs. Anabel Ade, a health worker and care-giver . In an interview with this writer, she said that her 72 year old neighbor in Barangay Igpit, Opol, Misamis Oriental, died of breast cancer recently.
Mrs. Ade said she was requested early this year, by the victim’s family (brothers and sisters), to take care of the 72 year old patient. The only child of the victim is 11 years old, whose father (her first husband) abandoned them. His second live-in partner, a Bilaan (native) of Bukidnon. Also left her when she became ill with breast cancer.
Mrs. Ade said that her patient divulged to her the great depression she suffered when she learned that her husband has illicit relation with another woman. The philandering husband even brought the mistress to their own house, she was told. Her brothers and sisters got so angry and “threw” the husband out of the house. The husband did not bother to come back and eventually abandoned the victim and the child.
When the separation took place, her patient went to their hometown in Lantapan, Bukidnon. That’s where she met her second man – a live-in partner. Her partner told her that she could be his second wife. (Under the tribal law and cultural tradition of Bilaans (Manobo) a man could have two wives (“Duay” in Bukidnon dialect). So she consented and accepted the proposal of her live-in partner. However she learned that many of the man’s famly and relatives are against their relationship. The victim told Mrs. Ade that she can clearly “see and hear” the hatred harbored by her lover’s relatives. The situation added much to her suffering and depression. So she went back home to Igpit, Opol, Misamis Oriental.
The victim narrated more details, according to Mrs. Ade: Her Bilaan lover followed suit and lived with her in their Igpit house, but when she fell ill with breast cancer, the man left her instead of taking care of her.
Refusing medical examination. Mrs. Ade said that her patient’s brothers and sisters requested her to submit to a medical examination because her affected breast became a deep wound and emitted a bad smell. She refused and again told them that she will just take herbal medicines.
A month before she died, she fell seriously ill and she requested to be brought to the hospital. According to Mrs. Ade, who continued to be the care-giver during the victim’s confinement, “she again refused to undergo mastectomy (removal of the breast by surgical operation). She requested the physicians to just inject her with antibiotics.” Mrs. Ade said that her patient’s condition worsened because her breast wound already produced worms. The doctors told her to just go home because she refused a breast removal operation.
At this point, Mrs. Ade said that the victim told her the worms in her breast wound could be a sign that she was spiritually maligned by the Manobo family of her live-in partner. She said that she believes in “Gidaotan” – a Cebuano term of the harm inflected to a person thru evil spiritual rituals. The worms in her breast did not disappear even until her patient’s death, a month after staying home again, Mrs. Ade concluded.
2. Unhealthy Lifestyle – could be among the causes of breast cancer. Severe and addictive cigarette smoking, excessive drinking of hard liquor and other alcoholic drinks and abnormal sex practices, are among the perceived causes of breast cancer, according to some interviewees.
Cleveland Clinic (USA) officially commented that some of the causes of developing breast are smoking, alcohol and obesity.
“Smoking. Tobacco use has been linked to many different types of cancer, including breast cancer.
Alcohol use. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of getting breast cancer. People who drink even small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis have a greater risk of getting breast cancer than people who do not drink alcohol at all. The more alcohol you drink, the more your risk of getting breast cancer increases.
Obesity due to overeating. Having obesity can increase your risk of breast cancer and breast cancer recurrence.”If you have experienced the menopause and are overweight or obese, you may be more at risk of developing breast cancer. This is thought to be linked to the amount of oestrogen in your body, as being overweight or obese after the menopause causes more oestrogen to be produced” the Cleveland Clinic said.
THE SYMPTOMS OF BREAST CANCER:
Several medical experts have agreed on the following signs and symptoms of breast cancer: A lump under the breast, which you may or may not feel, is usually the first sign of breast cancer. When you get a mammogram, your doctor may notice this lump. You also may not notice any signs in the early stages.
The symptoms of breast cancer can include:
-A lump or thickened area in or near your breast or underarm that lasts through your period
-A mass or lump, even if it feels as small as a pea
-A change in your breast’s size, shape, or curve
– Nipple discharge that can be bloody or clear
– Changes in the skin of your breast or your nipple. It could be dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed.
– Red skin on your breast or nipple
– Changes in the shape or position of your nipple
– An area that’s different from any other area on either breast
– A hard, marble-sized spot under your skin
Can Cancer be Prevented?
The causes of breast cancer are not fully understood, making it difficult to say why one woman may develop breast cancer and another may not.
However, there is a lot of good news about breast cancer these days according to . Siteman Cancer Center (U.S).
“Siteman Cancer Center at BTreatments says “we know more than ever about ways to prevent the disease.” These simple steps can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Not every one applies to every woman, but as a whole, they can have a big impact:
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for everyone. Being overweight can increase the risk of many different cancers, including breast cancer, especially after menopause.
Exercise is as close to a silver bullet for good health as there is. Women who exercise for at least 30 minutes a day have a lower risk of breast cancer. Regular exercise is also one of the best ways to help keep weight in check.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables – and Limit or Stop Drinking
A healthy diet can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Try to eat a lot of fruits and veggies and limit alcohol. Even low levels of drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer. However, not drinking alcohol is the overall best choice for your health.
No Cigarette Smoking
On top of its many other health risks, smoking causes at least 15 different cancers – including breast cancer. If you smoke, try to quit as soon as possible. It’s almost never too late to get benefits.
Breastfeed, If Possible
Breastfeeding for a total of one year or more (combined for all children) lowers the risk of breast cancer. It also has great health benefits for the child. For breastfeeding information or support, contact your pediatrician, hospital or local health department.
Avoid Birth Control Pills, Particularly After Age 35 or If You Smoke
Birth control pills have both risks and benefits. The younger a woman is, the lower the risks are. While women are taking birth control pills, they have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. This risk goes away quickly, though, after stopping the pill. The risk of stroke and heart attack is also increased while on the pill – particularly if a woman smokes. But long-term use can also have important benefits, like lowering the risk of ovarian, colon and uterine cancers. Birth control pills also prevent unwanted pregnancy, so there’s also a lot in their favor. If you’re very concerned about breast cancer, avoiding birth control pills is one option to lower the risk.
Avoid Hormone Therapy for Menopause
Hormone therapy in menopause shouldn’t be taken long term to prevent chronic diseases. Studies show its mixed effects on health, raising the risk of some diseases and lowering the risk of others. Whether estrogen is taken by itself or it’s combined with progestin, hormones increase the risk of breast cancer. If women do take hormone therapy during menopause, it should be for the shortest time possible. The best person to talk to about the risks and benefits of hormone therapy for menopause is your doctor.
Tamoxifen and Raloxifene for Women at High Risk
Suiteman Center further says that “although not commonly thought of as a “healthy behavior,” taking the drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene can greatly lower the risk of breast cancer in women who are at high risk of the disease. Approved by the FDA for breast cancer prevention, however, these powerful drugs can have side effects, so they aren’t right for everyone. If you think you’re at high risk, talk to your doctor to see if these drugs may be right for you.”
Find Out Your Family History
Women with a strong family history of cancer can take special steps to protect themselves. That’s why it’s key for women to know their family history. You’re at higher risk if you have a mother or sister who had breast or ovarian cancer. This risk is even higher if your relative was diagnosed at an early age. Having multiple family members (including males) who had breast, ovarian or prostate cancer also raises your risk. A doctor or genetic counselor can help explain your family history of the disease.
Don’t Forget Mammograms
Breast cancer screening with mammograms saves lives. It doesn’t help prevent cancer, but it can help find cancer early when it’s more treatable. Most women should get yearly mammograms starting at age 40. Women at higher risk for breast cancer may need to start getting screened earlier. It’s best to talk to a doctor by age 30 about your risk and whether you’d benefit from earlier screening.
Because regular breast self-exams haven’t proven to be beneficial, they aren’t recommended for screening. Still, knowing your breasts is key. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any changes in how your breasts look or feel,” Siteman Center reminded.
What are the Treatments and Cure of Breast Cancer:
The American Cancer Society (ACS)Trusted Source, says that “ a person’s outlook can depend on a variety of factors, such as:
- the type of breast cancer
- the stage of breast cancer
- the tumor grade
- whether the breast cancer is estrogen-, progesterone-, or HER2-positive or –negative
- the type of treatment a person can access
Breast cancer is highly treatable in its early stages, and the outlook is generally very positive.
Advanced cancer is not curable in most cases, according to the ACSTrusted Source. Still, treatment can often help shrink the cancer; slow the growth of the cancer; relieve symptoms; and prolong a person’s life.”
The ACS sayts that “survival rates for breast cancer are higher with early diagnosis and treatment, it added. A combination of treatments can successfully treat breast cancer.
-curing cancer means that treatment has eliminated the cancer from the body, a person does not need more treatment, and doctors do not expect the disease to come back.
-It is rare that a doctor can be sure a person’s cancer will never return. Instead, they may say the cancer is in remission.
-Partial remission means the cancer has shrunk but has not gone away completely. Complete remission means that the signs and symptoms of cancer are entirely gone and tests do not find any cancer cells.”
The National Cancer Institute states also that a doctor may consider a person’s cancer cured when they cannot detect the disease after 5 years of complete remission.
It is possible for breast cancer to go into complete remission. This means that breast cancer treatment can be successful and that the cancer will not return.
Medical News Today, one of the fastest growing health information sites in the United States, described in the latest post of its on-line newsletter, the Stages of Breast Cancer –
Stage 1- A person with stage 1 breast cancer has cancerous cells that have invaded the s
urrounding breast tissue.
A variety of treatment options can cause the cancer to go into remission at this stage.
The primary treatment for stage 1 is surgery with radiation, although some people may benefit from additional treatments, such as chemotherapy or hormonal therapy, to decrease the risk of the cancer coming back.
Stage 2 – Individuals with stage 2 breast cancer have cancer cells in their breast tissue, the nearby lymph nodes, or both.
This stage of cancer is curable with a combination of treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy.
Such treatment techniques are increasingly recognized as an effective approach for improving a person’s chance of cure or prolonging survival.
Stage 3 – Stage 3 breast cancer occurs when a tumor has developed and spread to several lymph nodes. It can be harder to treat but is still curable with aggressive treatment.
The treatment can involve a combination of drug-based treatments such as chemotherapy, targeted cancer drugs, and hormone therapy, as well as surgery.
However, the chances of successful treatment depend on the extent of spread, the grade of the cancer, the hormone receptor status of the cancer, and the individual’s response to treatment.
Stage 4 – Metastatic breast cancer occurs at stage 4, when the disease has spread to other areas of the body, such as the brain, bones, lungs, and liver.
Although this stage of breast cancer is not curable, it is usually treatable.
Current advances in research and medical technology mean that more people can live longer by managing the disease as a chronic condition, focusing on quality of life as a primary goal.
Breast Cancer Patients Need Support
If a person has received a diagnosis of breast cancer, they may feel fearful or overwhelmed.
Speaking with a doctor can be helpful. A doctor may recommend breast cancer support groups or online communities that can offer help, advice, and resources.
The Healthline Breast Cancer app has an online community for people to connect and find emotional support from others who are having a similar experience. (The National Breast Cancer Foundation)
In the Philippines, breast cancer patients and their families can tap the following institutions:
Novartis in the Philippines which was incorporated in 1996, following the merger of the global parent companies Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz. Novartis Healthcare Philippines, Inc. is one of the leading research-based pharmaceutical companies in the country, providing innovative, life-saving medicines to patients. Novartis works closely with healthcare professionals around the world to support their treatment of patients and collaborate on unmet needs.
According to Novartis, findings show that breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in the Philippines1, with the highest incidence rate of 17.6%2, accounting for 15% of all new cancer cases and 8% of all cancer deaths in the country. Three out of 100 Filipino women are estimated to develop breast cancer before the age of 75.3 The Philippines had the highest prevalence of breast cancer among 197 countries in 2017.4 More than half (53%) of breast cancers in the country are diagnosed in Stages III and IV, while only 2%–3% of cases are diagnosed in Stage I.5
Novartis’ advocacy states that in a study. “up to one-third of patients with early-stage breast cancer will subsequently develop metastatic diseases. Metastatic breast cancer is the most serious form of the disease and occurs when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the brain, bones or liver. Advanced breast cancer comprises metastatic breast cancer (stage 4) and locally advanced breast cancer (stage 3).7 Survival rates for women living with advanced breast cancer are lower than those for women with earlier-stage disease. The 5-year relative survival rate for stage 3 breast cancer is approximately 72% compared to around 22% for stage 4 breast cancer.8 Despite improvements in breast cancer care, many patients still lack targeted therapeutic options outside of the standard chemotherapy and endocrine therapy to reduce the risk of recurrence.”
However, Novartis says that breast cancer is no longer a death sentence, and breast cancer survivorship has come a long way in recent years. Innovative treatments offering women a greater chance than ever before to live healthy, fulfilling lives following their diagnosis. This approach has not only improved survival rates, but it has also led to an increased focus on quality of life for breast cancer survivors. By reducing side effects and other complications, innovative treatments (such as targeted therapy) have given women the opportunity to reclaim their lives after treatment, returning to work, family, and other activities with greater confidence and energy. The healthcare framework is also shifting to prioritize early detection and comprehensive patient care.
National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) is also helping address gaps in the national cancer control program by operationalizing the Cancer Assistance Fund (CAF), Cancer and Supportive-Palliative Medicines Access Program (CSPMAP), and Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients Program (MAIP).
The Department of Health is strengthening the country’s primary healthcare system to realize the Universal Health Care (UHC). It has its own program – the DoH Konsultayo.
Under this program, cancer patients can avail primary care benefit package of PhilHealth which includes: medical consultation, X-ray, sputum exam, among others. It will also provide supplements, additional tests and medicines. Konsultayo program will soon provide organized breast cancer screening.
Is There Hope After All?
Experts say that it is possible for breast cancer to go into complete remission.
The outlook tends to be better if a person receives treatment in the early stages of the disease. Advanced breast cancer may not be curable. However, treatment can improve symptoms and prolong a person’s life.
It is important to remember that cancer treatments are continuing to improve survival rates, according to Healthline Media UK Ltd, and Faith Selchick, DNP, AOCNP, Nursing, Oncology.
An article from Health Tourism On-line says that-“Treatment options depend on the type of the cancer, its stage, grade, genetic markers, overall health of the patient, presence of any mutation and menopausal status of the patient. Treatment involves surgical removal of breast cancer, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy and targeted therapy.
Surgery: Surgery is a good option for small and early stage breast cancers. Surgical options include lumpectomy, which is the removal of cancer along with small cancer free healthy tissue around it or mastectomy in which entire breast is removed. Lymph node biopsy or dissection is also done along with surgery to determine the spread of cancer and further action plan. Following mastectomy, reconstructive surgeries are done to create a breast form. They may include silicone breast implants or tissue flap procedures.
Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy uses high energy x-ray or other particles to kill the cancer cells. It can be given before or after the surgery and is given in cycles for a few weeks.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses powerful medicines which help to destroy the cancer cells. It is given in cycles for a few weeks and usually involves a combination of two or more drugs. In some cases it is given before the surgery to shrink the cancer size. It is helpful in early stage or advanced stage breast cancer to remove left out cancer cells following surgery or destroy the cancer cells as much as possible after surgery.
Hormonal therapy or endocrine therapy: It is helpful in breast cancer cases which are positive for estrogen or progesterone receptors. Hormonal therapy is used for both early stage and metastatic breast cancer. Medicines such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors are used to inhibit the cancer growth, which is activated by hormones.
Targeted therapy: It works against the cancer proteins, genes or tissue environment that promotes the cancer growth. Also, called as biological therapy, it changes the process in the cell cycle. Therapy is active against particular receptors for proteins present in the cancer cells. They help to control or slow the cancer growth.
What is the success rate of breast cancer treatment?
The success of breast cancer treatment largely depends on the stage of breast cancer. Detection of early stage should be immediately followed by treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Cancer Treatment experts say that early stage of breast cancer is highly treatable.
The Philippine Institute for Development Studies , however, said that the problem, despite medical advances, is the staggering cost of cancer care. This contributed to high death rates because Filipino cancer patients shy away from better treatment due to poverty and financial condition.
However, “We can beat cancer now. We can save lives. And we are trying our best to make treatment accessible nationwide, especially to those who cannot afford the treatment,” Dr. Marvin Mendoza, of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), has told media earlier.