GOOD NEWS, LADIES: BREAST CANCER IS CURABLE!

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  • Today’s breast cancer statistics are alarming, especially in the Philippines, where the highest incidence has been recorded in all of Asia. Why are we focusing on breast cancer? Well, it’s still Breast Cancer Month and this disease has struck four out of every 10 women, and I am sure many of us have had a spouse, a mom, a sister, best friend, a daughter, a beloved niece who have battled with breast cancer. That is why the early detection, treatment, and prevention of breast cancer is in our minds.

    The Department of Health and the Philippine Cancer Society confirm that breast cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in the Philippines, taking 16 percent of the 50,000 diagnosed cancer cases. Also, one out of every four women in the Philippines will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Half of them will die of the disease. Happy Halloween!

    Kidding aside, we had a “scary” pre-Halloween session at our Bulong Pulungan media forum last week. Thanks to Dr. Norman San Agustin, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and founder and president of Morristown Surgical Associates at the Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey. He has dedicated his successful medical practice to helping women—and men, would you believe?—who have breast cancer.

    He was chairman of the Comprehensive Cancer Care Program and the Breast Cancer Program at Saint Clare’s Hospital, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center affiliate satellite in New Jersey for about 10 years. He adds that, for every minute, one incidence of breast cancer develops and one breast cancer patient dies.

    “The sad part is that in the Philippines, 70 percent of those who die of the disease do so because they have not received any kind of treatment,” he laments.

    He says that the good news is that very early breast cancer detection can result in better treatment outcomes and will require less invasive procedures. Unfortunately, most patients often think that the disease is immediately synonymous with death and mutilation.

    “We have to break the cycle of fear about breast cancer with awareness, correct information, and the appropriate treatment. Most recent statistics show that the survival rate for very early detected breast cancer is 99 percent,” Dr. San Agustin notes.

    There are a lot of misconceptions about breast cancer that he hopes to correct and modern approaches to treatment that the state-of-the-art Asia Breast Center at Centuria Medical Makati, which he heads, can give. It’s the first free-standing, ambulatory comprehensive breast cancer care center in the Philippines and in the region that is affiliated with a major cancer institution in the United States, and it is dedicated solely to the management of breast diseases.

    This center, located at the eighth floor of Centuria Medical, is manned by a team of US-trained Filipino physicians led by Dr. San Agustin who has 45 years of experience in medicine and surgery, in affiliation with the Cancer Program of Morristown Medical Center. Morristown is rated as one of the top five hospitals in the greater New York Metropolitan area and one of the top 50 hospitals in the United States.

    A strong advocate for a multidisciplinary approach in the management of breast cancer, Dr. San Agustin has been recognized by the “Best Doctors” ranking service for breast surgery. The Asian Breast Center is one of the first breast centers outside the US that strictly adheres to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s (NCCN) guidelines.

    Modern facilities and excellent services, from preventive care to early detection and treatment of breast cancer, are made available. Its services include early screening tests, radiation therapy, breast and cosmetology services, counseling, patient education, and close post-operative follow-up supportive services.

    The center is also involved in charity work through an entrepreneurial model of “For-profit-for-charity.” The profits from the unit will go to its network of partner hospitals for breast cancer screenings and treatments for indigent women, so they can also have access to quality healthcare. The first beneficiaries of the center are the indigent patients of De La Salle University Hospital.

    Helping Dr. San Agustin in this cause is his team of highly trained Filipino doctors and experts including Dr. Sammy Ang, Dr. Ed Santos, and Dr. Max Basco, as well as private citizens including business leaders Ramon del Rosario Jr., Jose E.B. Antonio, and Amb. Jose L. Cuisia.

    And happy news… mammography to detect any abnormalities in our breasts need not be painful anymore. Go to the Asian breast Center for their newest equipment for a “no aray” but more effective machine. Do you know that Pinays have more fat cells in their breasts even if we have smaller sizes compared to Caucasian women? Fat cells make it harder to detect cancerous lumps.

    According to Dr. Agustin, the key to avoiding breast cancer—and even after breast cancer treatments—is to live healthy, eat less fatty foods, drink only one glass of wine a day, drastically cut down on sugar, exercise regularly, be less stressed, don’t hate or be angry. In other words, love more!

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