Cover Beautiful breast cancer survivor woman with pink ribbon and tropical nature decoration. Isolated medicine concept illustration for disease recovery or women health campaign. (Photo: Getty Images)

Estée Lauder invites men and women to stand up to breast cancer by uniting voices from around the country

Did you know that 27 Filipinos die of breast cancer every day? And that breast cancer is in fact, the most common form of cancer among Filipinos? When these unnerving facts were first presented to me at Estée Lauder's Pink Month campaign, my first reaction manifested itself through a jolt of fear. Of course, it's scary. Cancer is a big word, and it's one that affects millions of lives worldwide. But knowledge is power and there's much that needs to be known about something as important as this. 

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Though breast cancer mostly affects women, men can develop it too. The cancer usually starts in the mammary glands or in the milk ducts within the breast. This is why it's important to do breast self-checks every month. Those who menstruate are usually recommended to do so a week after their cycle begins, while those who don't—or who are post-menopausal—should check on the same day of their choosing every month. 

 

What to Know

According to the Department of Health (DOH), there are three kinds of risk factors associated with breast cancer: major, intermediate, and minor. Minor risk is associated with obesity and benign breast disease with mild to moderate atypia (abnormal cells in the breast). Intermediate risk is associated with hormonal factors; prolonged use of hormonal replacement therapy or estrogen replacement therapy should be something to consider. Intermediate risk also comes with poor diet and alcohol consumption. According to the DOH representative, Dr Clarito Cairo, there is no such thing as a "safe level" of alcohol when it comes to cancer risk. 

A major risk is seen with age and sex—older women are more at risk than any other group. Genetic predisposition and previous history of breast cancer also heighten the possibility of developing it. The ICanServe Foundation, a breast cancer support network, reminds everyone that early detection is key for many types of cancer, especially breast cancer. By age 20, women must learn and complete breast self-exams monthly. By age 30, women are recommended to have an annual clinical breast exam done by a medical professional. By age 40, those at risk should complete a mammography every year along with monthly breast self-exams and annual breast exams. 

Always be on the lookout for noticeable lumps on the breast or changes in the colour of skin surrounding the area. Depressions or indentations on the breast must be checked by a doctor, as well as blood or puss that comes out of the nipple. Swelling in any part of the breast (including lumps in underarms) and inverted nipples should raise a red flag to men and women alike. 

How to Face it

Breast cancer—or any kind of major illness—is not easy. But it's a reality that plenty of people are forced to face. Makati Medical Wellness Center Head Dr Gia Sison is a breast cancer survivor herself and shared her experience with the audience during Estée Lauder's Pink Month campaign launch at SM Megamall. It's difficult to imagine the enormity of it all, and so Dr Sison was there to help the audience understand the best way to support someone with breast cancer. 

People living with cancer have to face plenty of uncertainty. "It changes one's perspective about the future," explained Dr Sison. "There's the threat of possible death and a fear of recurrence even after treatment." Loss of function also comes as part of the aftermath. Those living with cancer might need to depend more on others as there is a possibility of difficulty in carrying out one's own daily activities. Poor concentration and memory impairment are not unusual. There is also the fear of recurrence. Mental health might be affected days or weeks prior to regular surveillance visits. Hypervigilance, avoidance, and increased healthcare utilisation are often seen in cancer patients and or survivors. "It's not negative thinking," Dr Sison said of it all. "It's reality." 

Read more: How Can We Normalise Mental Health Discussions?

Because there's only so much one can do for a cancer patient, it's important for us to be extra understanding. We may not be able to fully fathom their difficulties, but we can do our best to be present for them. "Please know that you are not alone," Dr Sison said, referring to patients and survivors. "You battle with people [by your side]." 

This October, Estée Lauder proudly wears its pink ribbon as it shows support for those battling the illness. SM Supermalls extends itself to the cause and rallies behind to empower men and women about the issue. “Every night, the Mall of Asia Globe and the LED billboards of Megamall, SM City Clark, SM City Seaside Cebu and SM Aura will be lit and dressed in pink, with Estee Lauder’s message on its 30-year continuous worldwide campaign to help end Breast Cancer,” said Steven Tan, president of SM Supermalls, whose own mother is also a breast cancer survivor. 

As it was repeated during the campaign, breast cancer is a scary reality. But there is support for people out there, and most importantly: there is life after diagnosis. 


To learn more about the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, visit Estée Lauder website and/or the SM website.

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