A survey titled “EVA: Evaluation of the Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices of Filipino Women” reveals that Filipino women always put their family’s health concerns before their own. As such, if the women of the family—be they grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters or daughters—are the ones who are ill, a majority of conditions are only diagnosed in later stages, or worse, when the disease is full blown.
Moreover, the survey also alarmingly noted that the leading cause of illness and death among Filipino women is cancer, many cases of which should not have been fatal if detected earlier.
Recognizing the need to empower the ever selfless and nurturing Filipino female to take care of herself too, The Manila Times partnered with Healthway Medical to mount its second Women’s Circle Forum with the theme “A Better You Today.”
Successfully mounted at Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria in Ortigas Center, the forum gathered close to a hundred top female executives from various industries, who were persuaded to spend an afternoon thinking only of themselves via lively and informative discussions on women’s health and well-being. Thankfully, they realized at the close of this “girl bonding” that even superwomen—no matter how busy, successful and selfless—need to take care of themselves so they can continue to take care of others.
‘Be the CEO of your health’
“As top executives of our companies, we should also be the CEO of our own health,” said Carmie de Leon, vice president for Sales and Marketing of Healthway Medical. To do this, De Leon advocated what she calls the “SEED Lifestyle”—an acronym for “Sleep, Eat right, Exercise, De-Stress”—among her all-female audience, promising them a healthy work-life balance as a prize.
On the other hand, Eliza Blanche Alay-ay, a specialist in OB-Gynecology, outlined the health issues of women between the ages of 40 to 60 years old today. According to the noted doctor, ironic as it may be, the life-giving female reproductive system, becomes the cause of a host of conditions in a woman’s senior years, among them, the formation of myomas, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer.
To prevent these dreaded diseases, Alay-ay stressed the importance of regular visits to one’s gynecologist, especially in the following cases: changes in menstruation, abnormal bleeding patterns, pain in the lower abdomen, and the discovery of masses in the pelvic area and lumps in the breast.
Alay-ay cited the common human papillomavirus of HPV as a cause of approximately 90-percent of all cervical cancers, while half of sexually transmitted HPVs are associated with cervical cancer. Using the age-old adage and truth that prevention is better than cure, the doctor conveyed that if every female adheres to the HPV vaccination program that has become available in recent years, the total number of deaths from cervical cancer will drop by hundreds of thousands each year worldwide.
Moving on to the next most prevalent health issue of women, Alay-ay discussed myoma, which is the most frequent benign tumor in the pelvic area, usually forming in the fifth decade of a woman’s life. With regular medical check up, this condition can be detected via ultrasound and biopsy, and treated with medication, dilation and curettage (D&C), or hysterectomy.
Ovarian cancer was third on the doctor’s list, which can be diagnosed whether benign or malignant through physical examination, ultrasound or CT/MRI. The cancer is then managed through observation or operation depending on the woman’s age and menstrual status, as well as the patient’s symptoms and characteristics of the tumor or cyst. Ovarian cancer, according to Alay-lay often occurs in women who are 50-years-old and above due to late menopause, if they were never pregnant, late childbearing, a family history of cancer, and a diet high in animal fat.
The last common health issue among women is of course, breast cancer. According to Alay-lay, the 2010 Philippine Cancer Facts and Estimates indicates that this continues to be the number one cause of death among women between the ages of 20 to 59 years old in the Philippines.
To avoid late detection, Alay-ay recommends regular self-breast examination, mammography, ultrasound and MRI. A significant 33-percent reduction in mortality can be achieved when mammography is done annually for women 50-years-old and above. She added that current guidelines of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network encourage normal-risk women who are 20-years-of-age to undergo a breast exam at least every three years. Previously, women 40-years-old and above were indicated for yearly breast exam and mammogram.
In summing up their talks De Leon and Alay-lay agreed that women—especially those among the work force all the way up the professional ladder—should be able to lead healthy lives so long as they do what they do for their families and careers: Manage it well.
“Be the CEO of your health,” they advised, “and the more, the better, will you will be able to take care of your families, your staff at work, and your careers”.
‘Act your age’
In terms of beauty and well-being, which comprised the second half of The Manila Times Women’s Forum, Philippine Dermatological Society fellow Ian Laurel, only had these simple words of wisdom: “Act your age.” By this, the dermatologist pointed to pursuing age-appropriate treatments and personal care regimens.
To begin with, Laurel informed that changes in skin generally take place because of aging. He especially advised the women executives present that because of these changes, not all skin care recommendations from dermatologists should be the same for women.
Each patient’s needs will depend on her age,” he insisted. Laurel enumerated tips on how to take care of one’s skin, top-most of which is to “be sure to select products tailored to your skin-type, and offer protection from exposure to sun and light.”
According to the doctor, a woman should always take the time to care for their skin because they know full well that one’s confidence and outlook can be affected by one’s appearance.
As women’s health and beauty advocate Cory Quirino emphasized during her turn at the forum, it is very important for women to love themselves—the key to taking charge of one’s health and well-being.
“Since it’s in our DNA to give so much to others, we usually forget about ourselves. At one point, I asked myself, ‘Why do I keep on doing this?’ It was then I learned to say ‘no’ to others when much is too much, and promised myself time, love and care’,” she shared. “You know, you always have a choice in life, so choose what is best for you, and everything else will follow.”
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The Manila Times’ Women Circle is a bi-annual gathering to highlight accomplished women from different industries in the country and create a venue for sharing their concerns and ideas, as well as an opportunity to forge friendships.
The Manila Times would like to express its sincerest gratitude for the support of the following partners in making the 2nd Women’s Forum a resounding success: Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria and Bioessence; as well as SkinWhite and Vitress, Frigga Charmed Life, Organique, and Selecta. The forum also enjoyed the support of Brownroots, BWL, Cocoro, GumTect, Pastry Bin, New World Manila Bay Hotel, Marco Polo Ortigas, MUD Studio Manila, and VMV Hypoallergenics.