Salamat Dok: Breast cancer - The bad and the good news

by Yam dela Cruz, Multimedia producer, Salamat Dok

Posted at Oct 21 2010 02:21 AM | Updated as of Oct 23 2010 06:27 AM

Female or male
30 years and above.
No kids.

Oops! Don’t get confused -- we are not hiring or looking for a contestant. These are risk factors for breast cancer. “Risk factor” means being prone or being a candidate for having an illness. Family history, early onset of menstruation and late menopause are also included. 

Very alarming figures were cited in a recent article, “It’s October! Let’s talk about breasts,”

The good news is, almost 100% survive this disease if detected early. In fact, there are a lot of breast cancer survivors out there who continue to share their inspiring stories about their battle against the leading cause of women’s mortality rate in the country – breast cancer.

Here’s one…

Leila Brian, Executive Vice-President of GSIS, sees to it that she undergoes mammogram test in the U.S. every year. But in 2008 she was diagnosed positive with 2.5 centimeters lump in her breast. She was surprised because she has no family history of this disease.

“I was so scared. When I was in the hospital, I overheard that they saw something. So I could hear them and that really scared me. I think my depression came about 3 days later when pathology report said positive. In my case they were 2 cancer cells out of 16 lymphs,” shares Leila Brian, a cancer survivor.

In an effort to prevent the spread of cancer cells, she underwent operation a week after the diagnosis.  She also had chemo- , radiation and herceptin therapies, typical treatments for the disease. 

“My oncologist suggested I do herceptin to fight cancer cells. Their explanation is that the cancer cells have a kind of antenna. Herceptin therapy renders the antenna useless. I took that for 9 weeks but even before herceptin, I had already underwent surgery first then chemotheraphy a week later,” narrates Leila.

With the full support of her family, friends and doctors, she survived the disease after a year. She said positive outlook in life matters and the determination to fight the battle.

At present, Leila said that her body is still sensitive and easily susceptible to viruses. To sustain her strong immune system, she maintains her medications and practices a healthy lifestyle.

Do-It-Yourself Breast Check

At this point, you might be concerned that you may have this dreaded disease. Since we are talking about a very sensitive part of the body, many patients are shy to go to the doctor to have their breasts checked.

Don’t rush! You can do it at home or anywhere convenient to you. Here’s how:

-    While taking a bath, raise your right arm. Use your left fingers to check lumps on your right breast
-    Stand up in front of a mirror with arms at rest at the side of your body. Look closely if your breasts have the same size and shape.
-    Look at your nipple and areola closely and check for unusual changes
-    Lay straight on the bed. Put your arms at the back of your head, then look and examine your breast closely
-    Lift your right arm and put it on top of your head, then use your left hand to feel lumps on your right breast. Repeat the same procedure with your left breast.

Alternative Medicine

Many believe that the foods we eat, especially with the kind of lifestyle in urban areas, are the roots of some illnesses. To them, processed foods are bad and the preservatives in it are considered carcinogens.

Tam Mateo, a naturopathic doctor, follows the common adage, “We are what we eat” by heart. He believes the cure to almost all our illnesses are just around the corner.

His alternative medicine advocacy have had healed many and continues to testify. Very simple yet very hard: all vegetable and fruit diet combined with exercise and proper sleep.

Here’s another story….
It was June 2008 when Lorelie Sarmiento discovered a lump in her left breast but she admits she ignored it. After 2 months, she felt pains.

“By October of that year, the lump began to grow then eventually came out, dark and circular in shape. As it grew, it suddenly burst out with a watery discharge,” narrates Lorelie, a breast cancer survivor. 

She was alarmed with what happened but she couldn’t do anything due to scarcity of money. It was only after a year when she consulted a doctor and able to undergo some tests.

The result: Stage 3A breast cancer!

She underwent operation or removal or her left breast. After the operation she was advised to avail chemotherapy but, again, due to lack of money, she chose alternative medicine.

“I decided to seek Mr. Tam Mateo, a naturopathic doctor. We always watch him on television and many testify about his naturopathic approach to healing. I knew I would not die if he could help me,” says Lorelie.

And the treatments began. Mr. Mateo advised Lorelie to eat raw fruits and vegetables. When she visited her doctor, there was remarkable finding.

“They instructed me to have a chest x-ray and liver ultrasound. I did it, all with normal results,” Lorelie adds.

Now, she doesn’t worry anymore even if she encounters remission. She continues her healthy diet. She also owes her victory in the battle with her support group who didn’t leave her side.

The Pink Ribbon

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the pink ribbon is an international symbol for this worldwide event.

The pink ribbon is a symbol of support for the victims of breast cancer. It was first used by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 1991 to commemorate Breast Cancer month in New York City. Evelyn Lauder, a known cosmetic brand, coined the idea to use the pink ribbon.

So, when October comes, in celebration of the Breast Cancer month, these pink ribbons and other products are being sold to raise funds for breast cancer awareness and research as well.

Medicine 101: Doxorubicin

Doxorubicin is part of the group of drugs called anthracyclines which kill body cells. This is used as a chemotherapy drug that prevents cancer cells from spreading. Though its main function is to kill the bad cells, it also inadvertently kills the good ones.

This is an injectable drug and given to the patient depending solely on the doctor’s dosage and frequency of use.

Doxorubicin like any other chemotherapy drugs is administered and is given to the patient after operation to prevent the remaining cells from growing. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, weakness, canker sores and hair loss.

First Filipina Chiropractor

She and her family went to America when she was still young. She grew up there, studied and graduated salutatorian at Life Chiropractic Colleges West, Northern California.

But she ignored what many have dreamed of and went home to the Philippines. She said she wanted to help her countrymen.

She is Dr. Natasha Balbas, our first woman chiropractor in the country.

“I encourage women to just to do what they want.  I wanted to come back to the Philippines because I was born here. My responsibility is here, the people here,” says Dr. Natasha Balbas of the United Nations Chiropractic Center.

Chiropathy is spine and joint adjustments. It comes with proper nutrition, exercise and balanced lifestyle. It is a way of correcting wrong positions that hinder the brain from its self-repair.

“We can heal ourselves. What we need is to make our brain communicate clearly with the rest of the body. In chiropractic, that is what we’re trying to find out, bad signals between the brain and the body. Then we fix it,” add Dr. Basbas. October 10, 2010