There’s no stopping Alagang Breastfriend (#AlagangBFF) from reaching out to as many underserved communities across the nation. With the maiden roll out of the Alagang Breastfriend Mobile Diagnostic Clinic, the first ever in the country, H.A.R.I. Foundation, Inc. and the UP-PGH Cancer Institute are going full-throttle in disseminating critical information and offering free breast cancer screening to women in the country’s underserved communities.
“Ngayon lang ako nakakita ng ganito,” beamed Ternate mayor, Lambert Bambao, during the first out-of-town medical mission of #AlagangBFF last July 20, 2019 in Ternate, Cavite. This former employee of UP-PGH has never stopped referring his constituents to UP-PGH for treatment.
The second run was on August 24, 2019 at the Holy Family Parish of Bgy. Gulod in Novaliches, Quezon City—one of the biggest communities in District 5 with an estimated population of 100,000, much of whom is made up of informal settlers along the Tulyahan River that encircles the area. Ric Idago, Financial Secretary of the parish’s Knights of Columbus chapter, pointed out that said communities who would most certainly benefit from #AlagangBFF’s free medical services.
The Ternate and Novaliches medical missions served close to 200 women patients, 10 of which were referred for biopsy. It was the first time for most of these women to receive a comprehensive module on the benefits of early screening and treatment of breast cancer.
On its second run alone, 4 out of the 200 patients screened by Alagang Breastfriend were diagnosed positive for breast cancer and are now under the care of the UP-PGH Cancer Institute. This makes for a significant win, given Department of Health (DOH) figures: one out of every 13 Filipinas can develop breast cancer. Early detection is the key to higher survival rates.
Tunay na Breastfriend
Flor runs a small business in Ternate. She discovered her breast cancer as a young single woman and underwent due surgery. Little did she think that it would recur many years after being married and children. “Noong December 2018, kumirot. Napakalaki ng bukol, parang mansanas. Nasa Stage 3 na ako, for 6-cycle chemotherapy … Akala ko mamamatay na ako, pero nabigyan ako ng pagasa. Napakalaki ang tulong (ng Alagang Breastfriend) sa mga taga-Ternate.”
Vicky, a housewife in Novaliches, was elated that she could avail of free breast cancer screening. “May idad na ako, kailangan ko ng mammogram kasi merong history ng cancer sa pamilya. Maraming matutulungan ang Alagang Breastfriend sa katulad naming kapos.” For her part, Grace, Vicky’s daughter, a school teacher, highly appreciated the lay forum on breast cancer. “Lahat ng natutunan ko, maari kong ma-share sa mga estudyante ko para mapalaganap ang kaalaman tungkol sa kanser. Kung hindi ka aabot sa advanced stage, hindi ka na matatakot kung kaya mo, o kung kaya ng bulsa mo.”
#AlagangBFF is also becoming an inspiration and an eye-opener among UP-PGH volunteers and LGU organizers.
Dr. Gerry Castillo, Tumor Board Coordinator of the UP PGH Cancer Institute, noted, “We get over 5,000 breast cancer patients a month… many can never go back to PGH because they don’t even have funds for their transportation, and we are losing a lot of patients. It is nice to know we can now bring the Cancer Institute to the masses where we are needed the most.”
“What’s good about Alagang Breastfriend is we bring the screening to the community…. we can do the consultation here as well as the mammography and ultrasound and if there is a suspicious lesion, we can do the biopsy right away. That further increases the chance that we catch the cancer earlier on at a stage where it is curable,” shared oncologist Dr. Rich King.
Says Erlinda Ariola, a server at Holy Family Parish of Barangay Gulod, Novaliches. “Yung van, puwedeng gawing maliit na bahay, kaya puwedeng ipasok ang mga machine. Hindi masikip. Napakahalaga ang mga procedures na ganito, lalo na sa amin na hindi nabiyayaan ng panggastos. Sa laboratories pa lang, napakalaking halaga ang kailangan mo. Nabibigyan ng pag-asa sa mga mahihirap kagaya namin. Hindi na kailangang pumuntang ospital. Ang ospital na ang pumupunta sa tao. Ang UP-PGH at H.A.R.I. Foundation, tunay na Best Friend Forever.”
“This is the greatest thing that can ever happen to cancer management in our country,” affirmed UP-PGH Cancer Institute Chairman Dr. Jorge Ignacio. “We hope that this success be duplicated to more areas. We already have requests to go to more barangays in Metro Manila, Bataan, and Cavite… The more we reach out, the more people we will be able to help.”
Said HFI President Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo, “I am heartened and inspired to learn about the ever-growing reach of our Alagang Breastfriend campaign. Our partnership with UP-PGH is an important step toward fulfilling our shared goal to provide the greater part of society access to important resources and technology that will help improve women’s overall well-being, and enable them to lead healthier, more productive lives.”
Alagang Breastfriend (#AlagangBFF) is H.A.R.I. Foundation and UP-PGH’s flagship wellness campaign for Filipinas everywhere to take charge of their health and so continue to be a driving force for the betterment of society. The Alagang Breastfriend Mobile Diagnostic Clinic, the very first of its kind in the country, is a customized Hyundai H-350 luxury van equipped with state-of-the-art mammography and breast ultrasound facilities. It is deployed with the UP-PGH medical missions to impart to underserved communities relevant information about breast cancer and offer free screening for early signs of breast cancer.