by RF

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A year ago, this meant nothing to me.

Last November 10, 2016, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer — Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Nuclear Grade 2 (post operations, it was categorized as Stage 2B Breast Cancer). I underwent modified radical mastectomy in December 10, 2016, 16 cycles of chemotherapy from January to July 2017, and 33 sessions of targeted radiotherapy from mid July to early September 2017. Last July 13, 2017, my super cool oncologist categorized my case as “no evidence of disease”, no more cancer in my system. Though technically speaking, I am not cancer free yet, but I will be. I still need to wait for three years of no cancer recurrence to be medically declared cancer free.

Breast Cancer is still the most prevalent type of cancer in the Philippines. In 2016, among 197 countries, Philippines have the most cases of Breast Cancer. On average, there are 10,000 new cases discovered annually. In 2016, in UK, 1 person is diagnosed with Breast Cancer every 10 minutes. As of March 2017, in US, there are more than 3.1 million women with Breast Cancer history (including current patients). Nevertheless, Breast Cancer Survival has been improving over the years. There are well-established protocols of treatment, and generally increasing awareness in the society. In UK almost 9 of 10 survive Breast Cancer for five years or more. In US, 90% of Breast Cancer patients survive for more than 5 years, 83% for 10 years or more. Unfortunately, in the Philippines survival rate is only at 40% primarily because of lack of awareness, late detection, and lack of adequate diagnosis and treatment facilities.

To be honest, I am still uncomfortable to talk about my situation, particularly if I just have to answer useless curiosity (Bakit ka tumaba ka? Why did you gain weight? Grabe, nakalbo ka? You actually lost your hair?) or unnecessary drama (OMG, of all people, bakit ikaw pa, why did this happen to you?). However, I hope my case can be a simple reminder for everyone that the key in battling Breast Cancer is early detection. I felt a mass on my breast in mid-September 2016, had it checked in late October (it could have been earlier but I was not in Manila most of that month), was diagnosed in early November. Yes, I do observe frequent self exam, and semi-annual screening tests.

Essentially, there are three main risk factors for Breast Cancer:
(1) Being a woman. 99% of Breast Cancer are in women.
(2) Getting older. More than 80% of Breast Cancer occur in women over the age of 50.
(3) Significant family history. Though this is said to be uncommon; only 5% of people diagnosed with Breast Cancer have faulty genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2).

Personally, I fall under the first (duh) and third factors (thank you, family. Hehe).

So, how do we manage occurrence of Breast Cancer? Early prevention / detection via regular screening tests. Having a healthy lifestyle somehow helps too (regular exercise, mindful eating, stress management).

Breast Cancer is curable if detected early, particularly from stages 0 to 2. Please, please take self-examination and screening tests seriously. Women ages 30 and above must have annual sonomammogram, 40 and above must have annual mammogram.

Even if Breast Cancer significantly changed my world in the last 10 months, I still feel fortunate because it was detected at an early stage, I have the means and capacity to proactively go for the most efficient yet aggressive treatments, importantly, I have all the support I needed from family, friends, and colleagues. Hashtag blessed.

The purpose of this long post is for awareness on Breast Health and Breast Cancer. Please don’t feel sad or worried about me. Please. My medical team is very much capable in fighting and getting rid of this cancer. Arrogant as it may sound, I don’t need any pity or sympathy. I deeply appreciate, of course, all positive thoughts, prayers and love. Thank you! ❤️

Brief yet concise reference on Breast Health and Breast Cancer from National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.:

Statistics sources: