With the Philippines having one of the highest incidences of breast cancer in Southeast Asia, Rep. Sol Aragones of the third district of Laguna has proposed a law that would establish a free early detection program for women to prevent deaths from the dreaded affliction.
“Breast cancer is the number one type of cancer among Filipino women and the leading cause of cancer deaths among Filipino women in the country today,” revealed Aragones.
“This law would help ensure early detection of breast cancer, and prevent deaths that could have been prevented with early treatment.”
House Bill 2798 or the Breast Cancer Awareness and Patient Education Act of 2016, filed by Aragones earlier this month, would direct the Department of Health (DOH) to implement a Breast Cancer Early Detection Program that would require a public information and health education campaign at the barangay or community level on breast cancer; annual clinical breast examinations for women aged 35 and older; and free annual mammographies in government hospitals for women 50 years old and up.
The program would also require all hospitals at the district or provincial level, and all health centers to have breast cancer screening capability.
According to Aragones, the absence of such a program explains why Philippine women with breast cancer have a low survival rate compared to their counterparts in other countries.
“In high-income countries such as Sweden, Japan and the US, the breast cancer survival rate is around 80%; in middle-income countries, about 60%. In low-income countries like ours, women with breast cancer have an average survival rate of below 40%,” the solon explained.
“That in itself is a tragedy,” lamented Aragones.
“And what is more tragic is that we can prevent these deaths. No Filipino family should lose a mother, a sister, or a daughter to a cancer that can be successfully treated if detected early.”
An estimated three out of 100 Filipino women will reportedly contract the disease before the age of 75. A study by the DOH and Philippine Cancer Society, on the other hand, found that breast cancer is the most common cancer in the country, comprising 16 percent of the 80,000 new cancer cases in 2010.
The WHO attributes the low survival rates in less developed countries mainly to the lack of early detection programs, resulting in many women consulting their doctor when their breast cancer is already in its advanced stage, as well as to the absence of adequate diagnostic and treatment facilities.