Every year, the number of breast cancer patients in the Philippines continues to increase. According to the latest statistics gathered by the Department of Health and the Philippine Cancer Society, one out of 13 Filipinas is afflicted with the disease, which is already the most common cancer in the country.
While these numbers are alarming, Avon Philippines—which has been a staunch supporter of the fight against breast cancer since launching the “Kiss Goodbye to Breast Cancer” (KGBC) campaign in 2002—views the situation in a different light.
“It’s not entirely a bad thing. What it shows is that Filipinas are now more aware of breast cancer, and so are more motivated to go see a doctor, or have their breasts checked and examined,” explained Faith Fernandez-Mondejar, head of Avon’s Asia Pacific Communications in an exclusive interview with The Manila Times.
“Therefore, we think that more Filipinas are becoming aware that early detection of breast cancer is the key to its prevention.”
On Tuesday, Mondejar led the company in launching the 2015 edition of KGBC, dubbed “I Share the Fight Against Breast Cancer,” at Le Jardin in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.
Despite this positive outlook, however, the female executive noted that the fight against breast cancer is far from over. And for this reason, Avon continues to impart to Filipinas the importance of self-breast examination, which has been the main goal of KGBC ever since.
Sharing her personal encounters with many Avon ladies, friends and relatives, Mondejar observed that Filipinas most often feel embarrassed when asked if they check their breasts for lumps.
“People are still not open about it. Tell them to do so and they will snicker, laugh or feel ashamed, which should not be the case. It’s the same thing as taking care of your body, or even just brushing your teeth. You want to prevent breast cancer from touching your life,” she explained.
“And this is what we want to achieve with this campaign. To get as many people have this consciousness about their bodies. We want people to think that it is normal and it is a part of their life.”
Mondejar related how Avon has been been using the annual KGBC walk and run as a venue to teach Filipinos proper self breast examination. The activity has been part of the program for three years already.
“Since people are already there, we might as well teach them right? They took part in the activity so we are able to give them something to bring home with them. It may not be of use to them at time, but for them to have at least that seed of knowledge is already something. If from that initiative five [people]discovered they had breast cancer, then I could say that it’s a job well done for us,” she continued.
In a separate interview with The Manila Times, Dr. Rachael Marie Rosario, for her part, noted that self breast examination should be done regularly—that is every month right after the menstrual period of a woman.
But more than this, she also advised Filipinas to undergo a clinical breast examination from their doctors every year. This way, they will also be aware of the different risk factors of breast cancer.
Listed on PCS’s website (www.philcancer.org.ph) are two types of risk factors. The first set be controlled like gender (the disease afflicts more women than men); age (older women are more at risk for breast cancer); recurrence (women with cancer on one breast that has been treated may replicate in the other breast); presence of breast cancer in a family member; and early menstruation or late menopause.
On the other hand, risk factors that can be controled are actually “lifestyle choices,” among them women over 30 years old who have not undergone pregnancy and childbirth; use of hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause; cigarette smoking or excessive alcohol intake; and lack of physical activity or exercise which results in being obese or overweight.
For Rosario the increase in number of breast cancer patients in the Philippines can be attributed to the changes in lifestyle of the Filipinos due to fast-paced urbanization.
“People prefer eating fast food now, instead of having more vegetables in their diet. They also lack physical activity. These things affect the risk factors of breast cancer,” she said.
With that, the doctor and PCS official called on Filipinos not only to be aware of the dangers of breast cancer but also to “couple the knowledge with being pro-active in their lifestyle.”
Joining the cause and gracing the event were KGBC’s celebrity ambassadors for 2015, Jennylyn Mercado, and Rocco Nacino alongside his mom Linda, who is a proud breast cancer survivor of 16 years.
Mommy Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, when Rocco was just 12, and the whole family was still living in Singapore. Just like every other breast cancer patient, she also underwent chemotherapy, surgery and even oral chemotherapy again.
Asked how she got through the ordeal, she shared, “I just had a positive disposition. It didn’t mean that if I had breast cancer, I will live less longer than those who did not.”
She added that she also got her innermost strength from her family, and most importantly, God.
Her message to Filipinas with breast cancer is this, “Be strong. There’s life after cancer.”
With that, Rocco rightfully said, “I am really, really proud of my mom.”
As ambassadors of the campaign, the mother-and-son tandem initiated “Piso Para sa Chemo” a coin drive using empty water bottles to gather funds for chemotherapy treatment of breast cancer patients. Mommy Linda proudly related that in just two months, they were able to gather P53,000.
Besides this, Rocco also lent his time and used his skills as a registered nurse for patients at Philippine General Hospital’s (PGH) Breast Care Center.
Mercado, on the other hand, intimated that her recent introduction as Avon Fashions Intimate Apparel endorser helped her “find a deeper meaning in life.” She pledged to sell 20,000 Pink Bras, whose proceeds will also go to the maintenance of Breast Care Center.
PGH’s Breast Care Center was established by Avon right after the first KGBC campaign in 2002 to address the lack of healthcare and doctors for breast cancer patients in the government-run hospital. It has been offering free medical consultations and affordable treatment since then.
Finally, Mondejar invited everyone to do their share in the fight against breast cancer by joining the KGBC Walk and Run slated on October 10, in celebration of the run’s 10th anniversary. To join, simply buy the I Share the Fight Against Breast Cancer T-Shirt from Avon representatives and choose from 5-km or 10-km distances.
“Yes, breast cancer spares no one. Anyone can be a victim. But the thing is, everyone can do something,” ended Mondejar.