Breast Cancer Awareness Month: From early detection to free treatment


The pink ribbon that you see being worn by many women this month is the international symbol of breast cancer awareness. For many years now, October is when organizations around the world mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month. With the many programs aimed at early detection of the disease, many more lives are saved, some of them from the free mammogram tests offered by private organizations and corporations during this month.

It is a fact that early detection of breast cancer increases the survival rate. When women with breast cancer are diagnosed at an early stage, when the cancer is still limited to the breast, the five-year survival rate goes up. And globally, most diagnosed with this disease — or 62 percent of breast cancer cases — are among women in the early stage.

Around the world, breast cancer has overtaken lung cancer as the most common form of cancer according to a WHO report released on Feb. 2, 2021. Breast cancer now represents 11.7 percent of cancer cases, with lung cancer in second with 11.4 percent.

The Department of Health, citing the 2020 data from the Global Cancer Observatory (GCO), said that “breast cancer leads the incidence among cancer sites and it is the third leading cause of cancer deaths among Filipinos.” According to the Philippine Statistics Authority and the DOH, three in every 100 Filipino women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

Many private companies and organizations have made breast cancer awareness and treatment part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects. Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. (HARI) Foundation has converted a Hyundai van into a mobile breast cancer clinic with mammogram equipment to provide free mammogram tests. It has partnered with UP-PGH who provides medical professionals to diagnose and prescribe treatment for the disease.

Another company, Toyota Motor Philippines Foundation, started a medical program in 2019 that offers free mammogram and treatment to women in their CSR communities.

Private organizations have also been involved not only in making more women aware of the benefits of early detection, there are groups who have moved on to provide financial assistance to those who need treatment. One of these groups is the Helping Women And Others (HWAO). Some of the women behind HWAO were in the fund raising committee of ICanServe, a volunteer foundation that collaborates with LGU’s to provide education on breast self-examinations and screenings.

The DOH has established the Cancer Assistance Fund (CAF) to financially support the Cancer and Supportive-Palliative Medicines Access Program (CSPMAP) available in 26 access sites nationwide. This is in line with the National Integrated Cancer Control Act. DOH said that in 2021, “despite the pandemic, more than 3,000 patients with breast cancer were given free cancer medicines under the program.”

Breast cancer month should not only be about making more women aware of the benefits of early detection, it should also encourage more groups to establish programs to give financial aid to those who need treatment for the disease. Proper treatment increases the survival rate of breast cancer.