The Philippines is said to have the highest incidence of breast cancer in Asia, an alarming situation since this type of cancer is the most prevalent in the country, accounting for 16 percent of the 50,000 diagnosed breast cancer cases. Experts say one out of every four women in the country is likely to develop breast cancer in their lifetime, with half of this number projected to die of the disease. What makes it worse is that those diagnosed with the disease often think this is synonymous with death and mutilation.
The good news is that early detection of breast cancer can result in better treatment outcomes, and less invasive procedures.
Dr. Norman San Agustin, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and also the founder and president of Morristown Surgical Associates at the Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey, strongly believes that “We have to break the cycle of fear about breast cancer with awareness, correct information and the appropriate treatment. Most recent statistics show that survival rate for very early detected breast cancer is 99 percent.”
The doctor certainly knows whereof he speaks, as he has a successful practice in the United States dedicated to breast cancer and was immediate past chairman of the Comprehensive Cancer Care Program and the Breast Cancer Program at Saint Clare’s Hospital, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center affiliate satellite in New Jersey, for about 10 years.
It is these misconceptions about breast cancer that has encouraged the doctor to open his own breast cancer clinic, the Asia Breast Center at Centuria Medical Makati. Scheduled to open this April, Asia Breast Center will be the first freestanding For Profit-For-Charity ambulatory comprehensive cancer care center in the country and the region affiliated with a Major Cancer Institution in the United States dedicated solely to the management of breast diseases.
Occupying about 400-sqm of space on the eighth floor of Centuria, the center will be manned by a team of US trained Filipino physicians led by Dr. San Agustin who has 45 years of experience in medicine and surgery.
A strong advocate for a multidisciplinary approach in the management of breast cancer, San Agustin, who has been recognized by the “Best Doctors” ranking service for breast surgery, envisions the breast center to be the first outside the US to be recognized and certified as a legitimate breast center by the American College of Surgeons.
The center offers modern facilities and excellent services – from preventive care to early detection and treatment – that include early screening tests, radiation therapy, breast and cosmetology services, counseling, patient education, and close post-operative follow up supportive services. It will also provide complementary medical services including a free standing ambulatory center, a Serenity Suite, a boutique shop, nutritional counseling and emotional and psychological support.
Aside from high-quality service and advanced features, the center will also engage in charity work, with profits to be used to enable indigent women to have breast cancer screenings and treatments. With San Agustin is a team of highly trained Filipino doctors including Dr. Sammy Ang, Dr. Ed Santos, Dr. George Bocobo and Dr. Max Basco with help from business leaders Ramon del Rosario Jr. and Jose E.B. Antonio, as well as Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia. The first beneficiaries of the center will be indigent patients of De La Salle University Hospital.
“We are aware of many women’s fatalistic attitude towards their health because of poverty and lack of access to health care. Generally, Filipino women tend to stay in denial which then leads to late diagnosis, poor treatment, and ultimately a high mortality rate,” Dr. San Agustin said. Critical to a successful breast cancer treatment is early detection that can only be done through regular self-breast examinations and screenings such as mammography.
The establishment of the Asia Breast Center at Centuria Medical Makati is in line with the world-class IT-medical facility’s thrust towards quality outpatient care and the advancement of medical tourism in the Philippines.
Centuria is the first outpatient IT building in the Philippines that offers topnotch outpatient medical care through advanced healthcare facilities and services. With the turnover of clinic spaces now ongoing, the medical arts center will be home to more than 500 doctors’ clinics and a wide range of health support facilities including a day surgery center, recovery suites, radiology center, and diagnostic laboratory once it becomes fully operational this 2016.