Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the Philippines. However, according to the ICANSERVE Foundation, due to the lack of a national breast cancer screening programme, many women, especially those who are from low-resource settings, only discover their cancer at a late stage. To support the women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), the ICANSERVE Foundation has created a patient navigation training programme and produced tailored informational materials for MBC patients. The Foundation also advocates for the rights of cancer patients and contributed to the national cancer control act (Section 12C) which states that regional cancer centres must provide and promote patient navigation support to people living with cancer.
The ICANSERVE Foundation supports women with breast cancer through the promotion of early breast cancer detection through information campaigns and community-based screening programs.
“The SPARC grant gave us more fuel to shine the light on the most neglected breast cancer patients. Being part of SPARC taught us more about Stage IV breast cancer patients and how they can be helped.”
The ICANSERVE Foundation was one of the twenty organisations to win a SPARC MBC Challenge grant in 2017 with their project on patient navigation and advocacy. The main goals of the projects were to better address the needs of MBC patients through disseminating information, patient navigation, and reinforcing national cancer laws in the Philippines.
To achieve these goals, the organisation conducted a survey of women with MBC to assess their needs and their level of understanding of their disease. Amongst other things, the results of the survey showed that the women consistently attended check-ups in the first two years after diagnosis and then began to miss or skip check-ups more frequently.
After the survey, the ICANSERVE Foundation rolled out a patient navigation training program in four cities that are part of Metropolitan Manila (Metropolitan Manila is composed of 16 different cities). The training programme covered topics such as how to monitor women who have had breast cancer, how to educate women with breast cancer about the possibility of recurrence, how to recognise symptoms of recurrences, how to increase treatment adherence and how to support MBC patients.
As a result of the SPARC project in the Philippines, the ICANSERVE Foundation successfully trained 22 navigators in four cities. Through the establishment of this patient navigation training programme, new collaborations were fostered, which also allowed for the training to expand. One of the four cities, Taguig, held a committee hearing last November 8, 2018 for the proposed Draft Ordinance No 76-2018 “An Ordinance Institutionalising Breast Cancer Care and Control through a Regional Health Unit Based Patient Navigation System in the City of Taguig.” Taguig City also commissioned the ICANSERVE Foundation to train an additional 34 patient navigators. Additionally, Malabon City expressed interest in running a pilot navigation programme.
In total, 56 patient navigators were trained in the first year of this programme, enabling MBC patients to receive adequate information and support. For 2020, Muntinlupa City plans to train at least 20 more navigators through the ICANSERVE Foundation navigation programme.
“After the training, I felt more empathy for the patients. I learned that cancer patients can live long. Before I didn’t want to be a navigator but now am ready to face the patients with answers!”
Marilyn Cipriano, patient navigator, Taguig City
In 2018, the ICANSERVE Foundation (co-chair of the Cancer Coalition Philippines) reached a significant milestone when the 2018 Philippines Cancer Bill was approved. As a prime mover behind this bill, the Foundation was influential in the inclusion of mandatory patient navigation programmes within the provision of the bill.
In the future, the Foundation would like to expand their resource guide (relevant mostly for Metro Manila residents) into a national guide for breast cancer patients of all stages and to develop a smartphone application to disseminate this information.
 GLOBOCAN 2018
(Information from the project description and context is compiled from the SPARC reports)