Changing breast cancer notions in 2023

Most people have started working on their new year's resolutions in these first few days of January. Besides promising to be more productive or not being late ever again, health-driven goals most likely take the top spot in resolution lists. Working out for a stronger body or healthy eating for proper nutrition are two of these common goals.

But arguably, prioritizing health also means listening to our body and doing our due diligence in detecting early signs of illness or diseases. Many health practitioners have been advocating for early detection so patients have higher chances of beating any disease.

Sharyn Wong, Country General Manager, Philippines Affiliate of the Estée Lauder Companies

Sharyn Wong, Country General Manager, Philippines Affiliate of the Estée Lauder Companies

A challenge, however, is spreading proper information on how to prevent, detect and treat health issues. Despite the wide use of internet, many people still have misconceptions about certain diseases.

Take for example breast cancer. One of the most common diseases for women, breast cancer myths are still common not only in the Philippines but neighboring countries as well.

In the last quarter of 2022, Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) together with Nielsen conducted an online survey among 6,000 women aged 25 to 49 across 12 Asia-Pacific markets.

While the new research found that 72 percent of women across 12 APAC markets are familiar with breast cancer, misconceptions persist around risk factors and prevention.

“More than 40 percent of respondents are aware that a family history of breast cancer and high levels of stress increase the chance of getting the disease. However, fewer than 30 percent of respondents know that smoking and drinking alcohol contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer,” the survey found out.

“At the same time, one-fifth of women in APAC mistakenly believe that wearing a wired bra increases the risk of breast cancer. This misconception is particularly high amongst Filipino (42 percent), Indonesian (30 percent), Thai (24 percent) and Malaysian (22 percent) women.”

In an email interview with The Manila Times, Sharyn Wong, Country General Manager, Philippines Affiliate of ELC shared that avoiding discussions on breast cancer, which some people still consider as a touchy subject, can create misconceptions such as the aforementioned one.

“Taboos happen when people refrain from discussing subjects openly. We want to break down these barriers and create more opportunities for open conversations to dispel myths, promote screening and self-checks and encourage people to seek advice from doctors and NGOs. By conducting research like this, we hope to raise awareness and encourage more people to participate in the conversation in the long term,” Wong said.

Seeking immediate help is also a concern for many women primarily because they don't see the need for breast checkups (as 31 percent of the respondents said) or are concerned about the cost (27 percent).

The cost of a consultation and/or not knowing where to access a free checkup are cited as a reason for not seeing a doctor by 54 percent of women surveyed in Indonesia and Malaysia, 58 percent in the Philippine, 67 percent in Vietnam, and 72 percent in Thailand. Covid-19 is a further reason why women have postponed doctor's checkups, but self-examinations have increased as a result.

ELC's Breast Cancer Campaign was established 30 years ago with a mission “to help create a breast cancer-free world.”

“At ELC, we have always put people and making a positive impact at the heart of everything we do. As we honor the 30th anniversary of the Breast Cancer Campaign (BCC) in 2022, we have an important mission to raise funds and support as many women in need as possible.”

One of the biggest BCC projects in the previous year was the Pink Charity Ball that raised P9.8M and helped sponsor more than 6000 free mammograms for women in need. In addition, Wong said the ELC APAC team will also be donating another P1 million to fund additional mammograms.

“This is a mission that we set for the team, and we are very proud that we accomplished it. The NGOs we work with in the Philippines have been our partners for a long-time and we are committed to working with them to advance early detection programs and services for breast cancer patients.”

By educating women about self-examination, dispelling common misconceptions and offering free services to combat breast cancer, ELC hopes more women can openly discuss and address this common health issue.

“Regular self-examination is a key part of self-care and can help detect breast cancer at an early stage when treatment is most likely to be successful. If we can make people more aware about conducting these checks, creating a breast-cancer free world may no longer be a dream,” Wong finally reminded.

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