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November 7, 2012
What women need to know about breast cancer

Read also: Women’s group raises funds for cancer victims among development workers

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Facts about breast cancer can be worrisome. In the Philippines, 26 females out of 100 and one male out of 105 is afflicted of breast cancer. An article says that since the 1980s, breast cancer ranks first among the leading cancers afflicting women in the Philippines and ranks second to lung cancer if both genders are considered.

However, there is still a need to raise awareness about breast cancer as many women are still afflicted of the disease. When diagnosed, the cancer has reached the terminal stage and has metastasis or spread to other organs of the patient making treatment of the disease more expensive. That is why doctors always say “early detection is prevention.”

In an event of the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) last Oct. 29 called the Kababaihan Kontra Kanser (K Konta K), Nurturing the Nurturers, doctor and activist Gene Nisperos, also vice president of Health Alliance for Democracy gave some facts about breast cancer.


October is declared as national breast cancer awareness month. The pink ribbon is an international symbol of breast cancer awareness.(Photo grabbed from Catholic Bishops’ Conference website / Bulatlat.com)

FAQs on breast cancer

What age women commonly have breast cancer?

According to Nisperos, it is very rare for young women to have breast cancer. Normally, breast cancer are detected in women aged 40 up.

What causes breast cancer?

Nisperos said there is no definite cause of breast cancer. However he said one risk factor is genetic or family predisposition. He said there is a trend where patients who have relatives who died of cancer are also afflicted by cancer.

“If your grandmother have breast cancer, your mother have breast cancer, there is 25 percent chances you may have breast cancer.” In case of twins, he said if one has breast cancer, there is a 50 percent chance the other one would have breast cancer.

Could contraceptives cause breast cancer?

Studies found that women using contraceptives particularly birth control pills have a slightly greater risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them. Studies also show that prolonged use of contraceptives, 10 years and beyond, also cause cancer.

Nisperos said that the DMPA or Depo-Provera, an injectable contraceptive injected to women every three months, is said to have caused cancer.

But he stressed that it is not automatic that if you use contraceptives it alone can cause cancer. He said that when taking contraceptives it is important to know what best suits you.

Nisperos explained, “Contraceptives affect blood circulation, and these are not explained to them. Birth control pills for one cannot be taken by women who have several varicose veins or women who have hypertension, or have high cholesterol level because it blocks blood vessels.”

What are probable carcinogens?

Nisperos said foods that have MSG are possible carcinogens. He encourages eating natural and healthy food. Burned foods are also carcinogenic. He also said that brewed coffee reaches certain toxicity. Coffee drinker should only drink six cups of coffee a day. Drinking 10 cups could cause hyperacidity; after years of drinking too much coffee, it can be carcinogenic.

Early prevention is better than cure

Lump in breasts as well as in other parts of our body should be taken seriously. Nisperos said lump as small as corn kernel can grow as big as your own fist in only one month.

According to Philippine Foundation for Breast Care Inc. (PFBCI) women should take monthly breast self exam (BSE). They also encouraged women to undergo clinical breast exam periodically.

From age 20, women are recommended to start breast self exam. “Breast self-examination is breast self-awareness. It is advisable to perform BSE on day seven to 10 from day one of menstruation. Menopausal women should also assign one day a month of BSE. Women who have breast implants, are pregnant or breastfeeding, should also do BSE.”

If a lump is found, Nisperos said that it is important to note if the lump is painful or not. “If the lump is not painful, you should see a doctor.”

PFBCI also recommends seeking Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) periodically. CBE is done by your doctor and should be part of a periodic health exam. It is advisable for women aged 20 to 30 years old to have CBE every three years while 40 years old should seek CBE every year. High-risk patients aged 20 to 35 years old should seek CBE every six to 12 months; 35-years olds should seek CBE every three to six months, or as advised by doctor. Report any breast change to your doctor without delay.

Mammography is also the best method for early detection of any breast changes. It is advisable for women aged 50 years old to undergo mammography every year. Even women below 50 can undergo a mammogram when they feel anything unusual about their breasts.

As the PFCBI website said, early diagnosis and early treatment can save lives. “Early detection of breast cancer improves chances of survival.” (http://bulatlat.com)

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