Established in August 28th, 1997 by the late Rosa Francia-Meneses as a direct result of the 1st World Conference on Breast Cancer in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, the Philippine Breast Cancer Network (PBCN) is the leading national network of breast cancer victims and fighters in the Philippines. The PBCN works from the knowledge that breast cancer is not simply a personal tragedy, but a public health priority that demands action from all.
It is a patient initiative, which maintains a patient’s point of view on the issue of breast cancer, focused on identifying environmental causes of breast cancer and preventing the disease. We are enjoined to provide communication, support and information; to promote education and awareness; and to ensure an independent voice for Filipinos afflicted with breast cancer and at risk of getting afflicted. The PBCN carries the voices of people affected by breast cancer to inspire and compel the changes necessary to end the breast cancer epidemic.
The Philippines has the world’s 12th largest population and also the 11th highest incidence rate of breast cancer worldwide. Our country experienced the world’s highest increase in breast cancer incidence from 1980 to 2010 and today, the chances of Filipino women getting breast cancer is 1 in every 13.
Breast cancer has rapidly risen in the entire archipelago, which is reported to have the highest incidence rate in Asia. Prior to the PBCN, there had been no organization or group whatsoever in the Philippines actively committed to the issue of breast cancer. The PBCN supports a preventive approach to eradicating breast cancer and believes that enough evidence exists to raise serious concern on the environmental link to breast cancer to make this a priority for investigation and evidence-based regulatory action. Corollary to this, government and industry must adhere to the Precautionary Principle – that of acting upon evidence rather than waiting for absolute proof. The medical profession must adhere to the patient’s Right to Informed Choice – that of full disclosure of all information and options and most importantly, total respect for her decision.
Only 10 percent of breast cancers are genetic, and science increasingly points to environmental factors for the sharp rise of the disease. For this reason, the PBCN has adopted the bold and daring mission to eliminate the environmental causes of the breast cancer, including toxic chemicals and radiation. Through public education, policy initiatives, treatment interventions and other innovative campaigns, the PBCN mobilizes the public to secure the changes needed to stop this devastating epidemic.
In response to the public health crisis of breast cancer, the PBCN with valuable information from the global community of breast cancer activists and organizations, foremost of which are The Breast Cancer Fund and Breast Cancer Action (both from the USA), identifies – and advocates for elimination of the environmental and other preventable causes of the disease.
The PBCN advocates for policy changes in three areas:
- Treatment – by shifting the balance of power away from the pharmaceutical industry towards public and patient interest while advocating for more safe, effective, non-invasive and non-toxic treatments
- Environment – by decreasing involuntary environmental exposures that put people at risk for breast cancer.
- Iniquities – by creating awareness that it is not just genes, but social injustices – political, economic and racial inequities – that lead to disparities in breast cancer outcomes.
Though it is not the PBCN’s wish for its ranks to increase, it undoubtedly will. Unlike other kinds of organizations, the Philippine Breast Cancer Network looks forward to the day it will not anymore exist.