In observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) vowed to help Filipino women fight off the disease, which has overtaken lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer mortality in the country.
With “at least 10,000 new breast cancer cases” detected every year, the Philippines now has the highest incidence of the disease in Southeast Asia, and the ninth highest worldwide, the statement said.
“Breast cancer is an awfully nasty disease that destroys women at the prime of their lives. We are absolutely determined to help our women fight off the ailment,” said Philhealth president and chief executive officer Dr. Eduardo Banzon in a statement released Sunday.
Launched last July, Philhealth's Type Z Benefit Package
is meant to give full coverage of medical expenses from surgery to post-operation care until therapy.
“Our P100,000-benefit payment for members and dependents with early stage breast cancer fully covers the cost of treatment, hospitalization and professional fees,” Banzon said.
Banzon said members and dependents with early stage breast cancer may avail of the P100,000-benefit package in any of the 20 Philhealth-contracted hospitals countrywide with proven expertise in treating the disease.
These hospitals are:
- Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center;
- East Avenue Medical Center;
- Philippine General Hospital;
- Rizal Medical Center;
- Quirino Memorial Medical Center;
- Baguio General Hospital;
- Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center;
- Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center;
- Cagayan Valley Medical Center;
- Dr. Paulino J. Garcia Memorial Research and Medical Center;
- Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital;
- Batangas Regional Hospital;
- Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital;
- Bicol Medical Center;
- Western Visayas Medical Center;
- Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Hospital;
- Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center;
- Northern Mindanao Medical Center;
- Southern Philippines Medical Center; and
- Davao Regional Hospital.
Negotiations are ongoing with additional public as well as private hospitals to serve as Philhealth-contracted facilities for the benefit package, Banzon said.
“We want to encourage timely detection and highly responsive treatment, which is key to improved survival,” Banzon said.
15 Pinoys die of breast cancer daily
Among Filipino women in particular, breast cancer accounts for nearly 30 percent of all cancer cases. Cancer of the cervix, ovary, thyroid and the lung make up the rest, the statement said.
Although breast cancer is primarily a woman's disease, men can also get breast cancer. Male breast cancer makes up less than one percent of all breast cancer cases, the Philippine Cancer Society said.
Smoking, excessive drinking, unhealthy diet, and lack of exercise are among the major factors that cause non-communicable diseases such as breast cancer, the report said.
"Ang pinakamalaking balakid para maproteksyonan ‘yung mga kababaihan sa breast cancer at saka ‘yung mga kumplikasyon nito ay ‘yung kanilang mga pangamba at takot na kapag may breast cancer ka eh parang death sentence na. Natatakot sila na ‘yun nga, makakalbo. Ang sinasabi nila ay ‘yung cure is worse than the disease. So para sa amin, seek treatment, get the cure," said Dr. Eric Tayag, DOH spokesperson, in the SONA report.
In Dagupan, breast cancer is the second leading cause of mortality of women, according to a report on Balita Pilipinas Ngayon on October 3.
"Hindi sila nagpapa-doktor, o pumupunta sa health facility. Unang-una, binabale wala nila. Wala silang tamang kaalaman. Pangalawa is ang kaalaman nila is wala silang kakayahan. Alam nila na it will cost money," Dr. Leonard Carbonell, Dagupan City Health Officer, said in the report
Carbonell said that breast cancer patients can seek help from Philhealth, as well as other organizations that provide financial assistance for breast cancer treatment.
"Dapat pumunta ka talaga sa doctor. Ipakita mo kung 'yun talaga is cyst, o ano, tumor, kung ano talaga ‘yun," a breast cancer survivor said in the report.
At the East Avenue Medical Center, there are some 400 regular patients at the Breast Care Center. The center is under the Philippine Foundation for Breast Care Inc., a non government organization that provides free support including checkup, operation, chemotherapy, radiation, and psychological counseling.
"You have to make sure na wala silang dahilan para hindi magtuluy-tuloy ang treatment. Ayaw naman na may isang pasyente na malalaglag sa programa. Gusto namin masiguro na tuluy-tuloy ang kanilang treatments," Aileen Antolin, project manager for Philippine Foundation for Breast Care, said in the SONA report.
According to the Philippine Cancer Society, breast examination should be done one week after menstruation. Symptoms to watch out for
- a lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
- a change in the size or shape of the breast
- ridges or pitting of the breast; the skin looks like the skin of an orange
- a change in the way the skin of the breast, areola, or nipple looks or feels; for example, it may be warm, swollen, red, or scaly
- nipple discharge or tenderness, or the nipple is pulled back or inverted into the breast.
—Carmela G. Lapeña/KG, GMA News