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Breast cancer cases in PH ‘staggering’ – health expert

MANILA, Philippines —  A cancer expert on Tuesday sounded the alarm on the continuous prevalence of breast cancer in the Philippines, saying the disease is akin to a pandemic.

“When you think about it, COVID has almost come and gone, and yet there is a very very prevalent pandemic — and that’s breast cancer,” Dr. Norman San Agustin, founder and CEO of Asian Breast Center made the remark in a breast cancer forum in Makati City.

San Agustin made the remark as he called the continued prevalence of breast cancer cases not only in the Philippines  but elsewhere in the world “staggering.”

“When you look at the statistics, even during the time of COVID, the numbers are staggering. And the worst of all, in two to three years COVID is almost gone but breast cancer continues to rise and will continue to do so unless we do something about it,” he said.

Breast cancer remains to be the most common cancer in the Philippines and worldwide.

Data from the World Health Organization revealed that as of 2020, breast cancer is the majority type of cancer among Filipino women at 31 percent.

The WHO said there were 86,484 cases of cancer in the Philippines, of which, 27,163 are breast cancers.

Breast cancer also has a mortality rate of 10.7 percent or 9,926 deaths, the third most fatal cancer in the country only behind lung cancer and liver cancer, according to WHO.

San Agustin noted that breast cancer is a curable disease especially when detected early.

According to WebMD, the five year relative survival rate of localized breast cancer or those only found in the breast is at 99 percent. This includes the stage IA, stage IIA and some stage IIB of breast cancer.

Regional breast cancer or when the cancer has spread to nearby tissue or lymph nodes has a five year relative survival rate of 86 percent. This includes stage IB, some stage IIA, some stage IIB and all stage III breast cancer.

Distant breast cancer (stage IV) or when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body only has a five-year relative survival rate of 28 percent.

“Early diagnosis are the keys to cure and affordable care,” he said. “The pandemic of breast cancer is real, and there are many ways that we can formulate solutions to it.”

Thermal Imaging

“Nobody needs to die of breast cancer,” Dr. Geetha Manjunath, founder and CEO of India-based medical startup Niramai, said. “But why are we losing so many women? Late detection.”

Manjunath said thermal imaging could be an effective and cheaper tool to detect breast cancer.

According to Manjunath, the technology she developed uses a high resolution thermal sensing device and a cloud hosted analytics solution which would analyze the thermal images.

She also noted that the procedure is non-invasive and does not use radiation.

The diagnostic tool will soon be available in select hospitals in the Philippines.

Originally published on


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