It is October and around the world it is known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The campaign started in the United States (US) in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and a pharmaceutical firm promoting mammograms as an effective tool to fight breast cancer.

American First Lady Betty Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer when her husband, Gerald Ford, was the US President. Because of this, she was able to generate a lot of attention to the disease to make the campaign national in scope in the US.

The campaign started to become known as Pink October in 1992 when Self Magazine pitched an idea to Evelyn Lauder, Estee Lauder’s Senior Corporate Vice-President and breast cancer survivor, for Estee Lauder to distribute a campaign ribbon for breast cancer awareness nationwide.

The campaign ribbon for breast cancer awareness was first started by Charlotte Haley to honor her grandmother, her mother, and her sister who had breast cancer. The ribbon she made was colored peach. Self Magazine reached out to Haley to offer to take the ribbon campaign national but she refused the partnership because she said it was too commercial and she wanted to stick to the grassroots approach. So the magazine and Estee Lauder made pink the color of the ribbon instead and it garnered a lot of support from many organizations in the US and it became the symbol of breast cancer awareness.

Pink October may have been an American invention that grew out of commercial partnerships, but the campaign has been embraced by the rest of the world because breast cancer occurs in every country in the world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 7.8 million diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of 2020, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer.

While females have the higher risk (100 times more) at 3 in every 100, males are not exempted from having it. One in every 1,000 males gets breast cancer in their lifetime.

Breast cancer is the third most fatal type of cancer afflicting Filipino women, behind lung and liver cancer, and there is an alarming growth of breast cancer cases in the country with the Philippines having the highest prevalence among 197 countries and the highest in Asia.

That is why Davao City is taking breast cancer seriously.

Through the initiative of the Rotary Club of Downtown Davao (RCDD), Pink October has been gaining support from the City Government of Davao and other sectors in recent years.

With its decades-long partnership with the City Health Office (CHO) on maternal and child health as well as disease prevention and treatment, RCDD is spearheading the Pink October campaign here in Davao City.

This year, the city’s support has leveled up with Davao City Council Resolution No. 01554-23 series of 2023 sponsored by Councilor Pilar C. Braga passed last September 11, 2023 supporting the celebration of Pink October 2023 and every October of every year in the City of Davao.

Davao City Mayor Sebastian Z. Duterte is also issuing a similar Proclamation that will be released during the Monday flag-raising ceremony at City Hall on October 2, 2023.

Before Monday’s flag-raising ceremony, Rotarians in Davao City, led by no less than the Rotary International District 3860 Governor Twinkle Gamboa, will join grassroots women, public health workers, health advocates, cancer support groups, law enforcers, students and youth groups, local LGBTQ+ community and others for the first-ever PINK WALK. They will assemble at 6 am at the Freedom Park along Roxas Avenue and walk to Rizal Park to show support for and raise public awareness on breast cancer.

Then on Friday, September 6, from 10am to 6pm, there will be a PINK HEALTH FAIR & FORUM at SM Annex Activity Center at SM City Davao in Ecoland. The health fair will have the City Health Office, PhilHealth, Go2Health, and breast cancer support organizations.

There will be free breast screening and free health consultation in the morning followed by a health forum at 1:30 in the afternoon with the pioneering functional medicine specialist in the Philippines, Dr. Rolando “Doc Oyie” Balburias, and his Go2Health! Team. Doc Oyie is one of the medical doctors regularly featured in the popular PinoyMD national program aired on GMA.

Doc Oyie will discuss the latest evidence-based findings on how cancer can be prevented even when cancer runs in your family and share health practices that may help cancer patients manage the side-effects and maximize the benefits of their chemotherapy treatments. There will also be nutrition education that will share how food can be used as medicine to prevent and even reverse chronic illnesses.

After the health forum, there will be a PINK ZUMBA with popular Davao zumba instructor Tata Debildos.

An on-the-spot dance contest and raffle promise to make the event more fun and exciting for participants.But Pink October is just the fun part of it. Let us keep going and take breast cancer seriously every month of every year.

According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), targeted breast cancer treatments in 18 cycles cost from P300,000 to P450,000. And many Filipinos cannot afford such an amount.

PIDS noted that P1.56 billion was provided under the 2023 General Appropriations Act (GAA) to subsidize cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and care under the Cancer Assistance Fund.

But will that be enough when there were 27,163 cases of breast cancer recorded in the country in 2020 alone and growing every year? What about those that remain undiagnosed and unreported? And that is just for breast cancer.

We need to do better and come up with creative solutions. Starting with prevention and early detection. Together we can create hope in the world for those living with cancer.

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