In response to the continuing threat of breast cancer, ICanServe Foundation recently launched the “You Can Do This: A Breast Cancer Patient’s Manual,” a comprehensive resource designed to support breast cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers on their journey to wellness. Moreover, the material is available as a free download in English and Filipino.
“I didn’t know much about cancer or how to have it when I was diagnosed 24 years ago. Speaking with other survivors and searching online helped minimize the fear and empowered me,” shared Crisann Celdran, ICanServe Co-founder and Chairman of the Board. “The manual is a love letter from survivors to other survivors and their caregivers and families, and one I wish I had access to back then,” added Celdran.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 27,163 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the Philippines in 2020, making it the most common cancer in the country. Furthermore, breast cancer has a mortality rate of 10.7 percent or 9,926 deaths, making it the third most fatal cancer in the country behind only lung cancer and liver cancer.
To help patients, Celdran pointed out that survivors and caregivers access essential information throughout their cancer journey and the manual offers practical knowledge and advice and shares heartfelt stories from breast cancer survivors.
“As a longtime survivor, many newly-diagnosed women or their loved ones come to me for advice. While I try my best, my answers are insufficient, or too vague, or too scattered. With this manual, I’m able to give sound advice—even for questions they haven’t asked—in a more organized manner,” said ICanServe President Nikoy de Guzman. “We hope this manual sends the message that cancer is not a death sentence. Many things can be done to ease the burden of a cancer diagnosis. No one is alone in her fight.”
A source of information and encouragement, Celdran said manual combines information gleaned from studies and established sources such as the American Cancer Society, as well as personal anecdotes. It covers a wide range of topics, from the medical (understanding treatment options, managing side effects), to the personal (how to tell your family and friends), to the practical (financing cancer treatment).
“Written by breast cancer survivors, and with input from experts in various fields, from psychiatry to palliative care, the updated Manual is written in layman’s terms to help patients as well as their families and support groups at different stages on the journey. It’s a solid, valuable reminder that no breast cancer survivor is ever completely alone in this experience,” shared Alya Honasan, ICanServe volunteer, journalist, artist, book author, yoga instructor, and the Manual’s editor.
Dr. Corazon Ngelangel of the National Integrated Cancer Control Council and Philippine Cancer Society supports the manual, saying, “This manual empowers women to take charge of their well-being through self-education, self-assessment, and self-reliance; equipping them with insights on getting the right treatment at the right time.”
“What sets apart the ICanServe patient manual, ‘You Can Do This!’ is that it is Philippine and patient centered. To this day, there are gaps in information for the rich, the middle class, and the poor. Patients often feel side effects or symptoms that are unacknowledged and unaddressed. We want patients, carers, caregivers, and health providers to form a circle of support for patients, and to fully share in the journey, beginning with accurate information and acknowledging the unique and nuanced experience of breast cancer patients. This circle of support equals hope—the one thing you should never take away from a patient,” noted Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, Founding President, ICanServe and Vice President for Internal Affairs, Cancer Coalition Philippines.
In her speech read by Menchie Auste, Cancer Coalition Philippines Vice President of External Relations, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire commended the publication “as not just a publication; it is a lifeline, a source of empowerment, and a beacon of hope for countless individuals and families affected by breast cancer.”
Although a lot of Filipinas are aware of the burden of breast cancer in women, at some point some people may even perceive it as a death sentence. “Moreover, the impact of cancer within a family is profound. It doesn’t stop with the patient; instead, it ripples through all of the family members’ mental health, relationships, and livelihood,” she said.
“Worse is that most patients who suffer the worst cancer outcomes are the disadvantaged and marginalized members of our society due to poverty and lack of education,” Vergeire added.
Vergeire said the impact of social determinants of health is clearly visible in these individuals. She added the challenge becomes greater as lower income and education levels often lead to restricted access to healthcare resources, especially information on self-examination and early breast cancer screenings.