Breast cancer screening in the Philippines

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Published: 12 Dec 2016
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Kara Alikpala - ICanServe Foundation, Manila, Philippines

Kara Alikpala speaks with ecancertv at the 2016 World Cancer Congress about how UICC membership is informing the practice of her organisation, ICanServe, in regional cancer control in the Philippines.

She is also a recipient of a travel grant as part of the UICC CEO programme, discussed further by Charles Butcher here.

Could you tell us about the CEO program?

I’m very honoured to be part of the CEO program. I expect to learn so-called tricks of the trade; I want to know how things work for other countries. Currently in my country we’re trying to push for a Cancer Act and I need all the help I can get, just finding how to make it happen. So I think this will be a good start.

Could you tell us about the collaboration between the UICC and the ICanServe Foundation?

We just started being a member now but I can already see that it’s going to provide us access to a network of people who can really help us learn more and really make a difference in people’s lives. It’s also going to provide us with a wealth of knowledge that we need. There’s everything to gain to being a member at the UICC. Whatever gains there are here we can trickle it down to my country.

What are your thoughts on the regional approaches of the UICC?

The increasing regional approach of the UICC in the way it convenes is a good idea. At least when they do regional stuff we’re talking about things that for people they’re more common ground, it’s more relevant for the people in this area that they’re dealing with. When I would attend UICC events before a lot of the topics and issues were just so way above my head, they were too way advanced. We were still dealing with basic issues and we still do but at the same time, at least, there’s something we could aim for whenever I’m exposed to countries with highly evolved healthcare systems.

What challenges are you facing with your work at home?

On a national level I don’t think I’ve seen a true champion for cancer in my country in government. There are not a lot of resources, it’s a resource challenged country and there’s a lack of knowledge.

Could you tell us more about the ICanServe Foundation?

The ICanServe Foundation is the only entity in the country doing breast cancer screening that’s community based. Breast cancer is our number one cancer in the country but our government does not have a comprehensive community based early breast cancer detection programme. We’re the only ones doing it and, of course, the partnering cities that we deal with are very happy with the outcomes. The buy-in is never easy at first, of course, for the Mayor or the leader of the city. She or he tends to look good so that’s no problem but when you deal with the doctors, for them it’s added work without added pay and they are suspect of your intentions – are you there to sell a product, are you there to campaign for the Mayor later on? What is it about? But once they see all these grateful patients come back to them then they tend to embrace the programme and we begin to save more lives.

A lot of local government units are very jaded because of corruption or because of politicians spoiling them, giving them incentives for something in exchange. So it’s always hard to bring in any kind of programme to a local government, they’re kind of jaded. And you can’t blame them, it’s the fault of the politicians for spoiling these people and spoiling the culture.

How do you see this issue being tackled?

It helps that we have external help now, that’s how I want to look at the UICC. Because otherwise it’s just like our organisation being a lone voice in a country that’s resource challenged in the middle of nowhere. But now if you have a whole region or a whole global village behind you, how can you be ignored?