Health literacy and health promotion for early detection emerged as the top priorities for the breast cancer community, according to speakers at first roundtable discussion organized by the Swiss Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (SwissChamPH), in collaboration with the Philippine Cancer Society, Inc. (PCS) and ICanServe Foundation, Inc., and with the support of Novartis (Philippines).
Called “Inspiring Conversations on Breast Cancer in the Philippines,” the forum was graced by Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, who encouraged all sectors to work together to address the challenges posed by breast cancer and save more lives.
Health promotion for early detection is one of the three pillars of action for national cancer control programs under the Global Breast Cancer Initiative (GBCI) of the World Health Organization. Established in 2021, GBCI brings together stakeholders from around the world and across sectors with the shared goal of reducing breast cancer by 2.5% per year, which over a 20-year period would save 2.5 million lives, which was covered by SwissChamPH chair Christine Fajardo in her opening remarks.
The first pillar involves public health education to improve awareness of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, risk reduction strategies (such as preventing and managing obesity, limiting alcohol intake and encouraging breastfeeding), and reducing any stigma associated with breast health.
Health literacy is needed to ensure health education can find willing and compliant audiences to improve health outcomes.
Panelists at the first roundtable moderated by broadcast journalist Jing Castaneda were Dr. Ann Meredith Garcia-Trinidad of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology; Dr. Maria Cecilia Pagdanganan, head of the Breast Center of St. Luke’s Medical Center Quezon City; Dr. Marie Belle Francia, head of the Cancer Institute of St. Luke’s Medical Center Bonifacio Global City; Adora Perez, vice-president of Corridors of Hope, a support group based in St. Luke’s Medical Center; Joel Chong, country president of Novartis Healthcare Philippines (Novartis PH).
Keynoting the event were USec. Vergeire and Dr. Corazon Ngelangel, PCS president, who introduced the ACT NOW Breast Cancer Early Detection Program launched on February 14, 2023 in its pilot barangay, Commonwealth in Quezon City. Ngelangel also mentioned ICanServe’s Circle of Life project being piloted in Taguig City. “We (PCS) and ICanServe really complement each other and enforce each other to aid patients in their journey,” she said.
The event ended with a call to action led by ICanServe founding president Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala and PCS executive director Rachael Rosario, with a ceremonial signing of a “manifesto to improve survivorship.” They were joined by members of the audience, including journalists-members of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) covering the discussion and ICanServe volunteers Giselle Arroyo, Jossie Racoma Conde, Madelyn Siochi, Rockie Catignas and Meldy Baldovino. PPI has an ongoing fellowship on breast cancer reporting under an agreement with ICanServe and Novartis PH.