Cancer is a scary word for many people.
According to health experts, the number one cancer in the Philippines is breast cancer with a 40% mortality rate. In fact studies show that in 2007, there were 13,051 new breast cancer cases in the country and out of this number, 7,582 patients died.
The disease is often associated with pain, isolation and even death. But doctors say cancer of the breast can actually be detected at the start and dealt with before things get worse.
According to Dr. Aurea M. Lopez, Head of Quezon City Health and Nutrition, breast cancer happens when there are lumps in the breast that become cancerous. “When we say it’s cancerous, na-spread siya to the other areas of the body and it will involve the lymph glands too,” she adds.
It’s a sad fact that the most common risk factor for breast cancer is genetics. However, Dr. Lopez says that the intake of birth control pills “aggravates” the formation of breast cancer.
Breast cancer starts at Stage 0 or the “pre-cancerous stage.” Here the cancer cells form in the breast tissues. When they start to spread out, it becomes Stage One. Doctors declare breast cancer Stage Two and Three when it spreads from two to three millimeters around the nipple area.
Stage Four happens once the cancer affects the auxiliary lymph nodes. Dr. Aurea Lopez says “Nagkakaroon na ng pain at kapag malala na nagkakaroon ng ulcer outside the breast area. Nagkakasugat din lalo na sa advanced stage.” (There is now pain and if it worsens, (skin) ulcers form outside the breast area. Wounds also appear especially during the advanced stage.)
Women’s health advocate Ironman triathlon winner Tricia Chiongbian-Concepcion recommends that women 35-years-old and above have an annual mammogram. “When you get older, the chances of getting breast cancer are higher especially if you have kids,” she says.
Doctors also recommend girls to conduct regular self-examination to detect lumps in their breasts. “Tingnan natin, kung may nag-develop ng lump sa ating breast. At pumunta sa doctor kapag may nakita na maliit na lump,” Dr. Lopez says. (Let’s take a closer look if a lump develops in our breast. And go to a doctor if we detect a small lump.)
She adds that the small lumps can grow into malignant (fatal) tumors, which is why small steps for early detection can make a world of difference.