Press Release
October 12, 2010

Privilege speech of Sen. Pia Cayetano


Mr. President, distinguished Colleagues, other than the celebration of the Philippine Senate's anniversary, this October is also known as Children's Month, Ocean Month, and World Vegetarian Awareness Month. But it is also in October that people all over the world observe the International Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is dedicated to increase awareness on prevention of breast cancer through information and educational campaigns that reach out to all women throughout the world emphasizing the importance of early detection and treatment.

Mr. President, all, if not most of us know someone - a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a relative, a friend or a colleague, all of different ages, social status, and race- who has been fighting breast cancer. Women who have breast cancer are everywhere and are, sad to say, increasing. In fact, even if breast cancer is rare among men, breast cancer has now overtaken lung cancer for both sexes in the Philippines according to the latest report by the Philippine Cancer Society, the University of the Philippines-Manila and the Department of Health. Furthermore, breast cancer remains the number one cancer killer among Filipino women, accounting for 28% of the total cases.

What is more alarming is that according to a report from the Philippine Breast Cancer Network, the Philippines now has the highest incidence rate of breast cancer in Asia and is also considered to have the 9th highest incidence rate in the world today. One out of four who are diagnosed with breast cancer die within the first five years and no less than 40% die within ten years. This is because breast cancer is often detected in its late stages due to low public awareness and lack of information about the disease.

Education, Mr. President, must play a key factor if we are to win the battle against breast cancer. The importance of breast health and self breast examination cannot be overemphasized as these are the keys to surviving this disease. For this reason, women starting at age twenty are advised to undergo a monthly self-breast examination one week after her menstrual period including a clinical breast examination or mammogram at least every three years. Medical experts claim that when breast cancer is diagnosed early and treated promptly, the probability that it can be cured is up to 85 %. Regular mammography is also recommended for women over 40 years old. This is also recommended for women who have detected a lump on their breast. But sadly, Mr. President, early diagnosis is the exception. Many women do not know about basic breast examination. Furthermore, when women do detect a suspicious lump, diagnosis and treatment is not always accessible.

After detecting a lump on one's breast, there are two procedures that a patient undergoes. One is mammography or ultrasound. This uses low-dose amplitude-X-rays to examine the human breast and is used as a diagnostic and screening tool. The goal of mammography is the early detection of breast cancer, typically through detection of characteristic masses and/or microcalcifications. Mammography is believed to reduce mortality from breast cancer. This normally costs around Php 2,000.00.

The other procedure is breast biopsy. This procedure removes a sample of breast tissue that is examined under a microscope to check for breast cancer. A breast biopsy is usually done to check a lump found during a breast examination or a suspicious area found on a mammogram, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This costs an additional Php 2,000.00. In government hospitals, payment of such procedures depends on the patient's capability to pay.

Mr. President, diagnostic tests are more affordable than breast cancer treatment. For stage 1 and 2 breast cancer patients, treatment includes surgery which costs about Php 10,000.00 - 100,000.00 and chemotherapy which costs Php 5,000.00 per session or Php 30,000.00 for six cycles. For stage 3 breast cancer patients, surgery costs about Php 10,000.00 - 100,000.00 but chemotherapy would cost a patient Php 100,000.00 per session or Php 600,000.00 for six cycles. Lastly, stage 4 patients would also spend for surgery and chemotherapy. However, patients on this stage normally spend more as their medicines are more expensive because the cancer cells may have spread to the other parts of the body.

Indeed, Mr. President, early detection is the best prevention for breast cancer. It is not only cheaper but also has a higher possibility of producing better treatment outcome.

Preventive health care is cheaper but it still has costs involved. We, in the Senate, can do out part in saving lives of women by supplementing the budget of health for disease prevention and awareness.

Mr. President, women need not necessarily die of breast cancer. Early detection and treatment can save lives.

We should not waste time.

Let us start now for we want our women to live their lives to the fullest free from this deadly disease called breast cancer.

Thank you.

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