BY LYKA MAE P. CHIANG
For many years now, cancer has been persistently included in the list of top leading causes of death worldwide. Dr. Norman San Agustin, founder, president and CEO of The Asian Breast Center Inc., envisions a comprehensive and affordable care for the early diagnosis of breast cancer during the launch of the Asian Breast Center at Centuria Medical Makati.
After two decades of practicing medicine dedicated to breast cancer in the United States, Dr. San Agustin decided to open a comprehensive care center for breast cancer patients in the Philippines. According to Dr. San Agustin, “One out of four women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Half of them will die, and 70 percent of those who will die will die without treatment.”
Fighting cancer is not an easy task. It entails a lot of medical attention—from oral medications and lifestyle changes to enormous operations that need to be done frequently and continuously, which may mean sacrificing your bank savings for all the medical expenses. During the launch, Dr. San Agustin showed in his presentation how much money a cancer patient is required to spend annually for an intensive breast cancer treatment. With many diagnostic and post-treatment monitoring work-ups a patient has to undergo, such as mammogram, ultrasound, biomarkers, imaging like MRI, the annual cost for breast cancer therapy could reach up to Php 3,000,000 with several cycles of chemotherapy and other ancillary treatment.
“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 ultimate mortality rate,” Dr. San Agustin said.
The Asian Breast Center reaches out to the Filipinos with an alternative and better option for the treatment of breast cancer. It is a for-profit-for-charity ambulatory center made specifically for the diagnosis and management of breast diseases. It offers a wide range of top-notch services, some of which are less expensive and more practical than the standard treatment procedures being used today. These include digital mammography, breast ultrasound, molecular breast imaging (MBI), breast cancer surgery and oncoplastic surgery, and intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT).
To extend these services to their patients, the center will make use of the latest 3D Tomosynthesis Mammogram and the General Electric 2D mammography machine.
MBI and IORT
For his part, Dr. James R. Wong, chairman of Department of Radiation Oncology at the Morristown Medical Center, also explained the role of radiation treatment for early-stage breast cancer.
The MBI is a new, innovative technology that enables tumor cells to be highly seen with the use of a special camera for a better detection of breast cancer among women.
Unlike with a standard mammography in which lesion in the breast is either undetected or indiscernible, in MBI, the lesion is clearly visible as a white area. It is especially pertinent to Filipino women who mostly have dense breasts. This kind of breast is firmly associated with the development of cancer. Further, the procedure is faster and less expensive than MRI.
The Asian Breast Center also offers the IORT, a treatment procedure that provides a single dose of radiation to a tumor bed. The therapy usually lasts for 25 to 30 minutes and is performed right after lumpectomy while the patient is under anesthesia.
A benefit of IORT compared to the standard radiation therapy is that it lessens the chances of total mastectomy. Additionally, it only requires one session versus 33 sessions of the standard, so the treatment period is highly decreased.
September 2017 Health and Lifestyle