A minute against breast cancer


It only takes a minute to help detect breast cancer. This is the message behind Avon Philippines’ fun and informative Pink Minute campaign that has lit key landmarks around Metro Manila to spread a message of awareness against breast cancer.

Direct-selling company Avon has been involved in a global crusade against cancer since 1992, educating millions of women about the disease and donating over US$800 million to the cause. In 2017, it reiterated its commitment to the cause by crafting the Avon Breast Cancer Promise, which aims to “help every woman know the risks, help every woman know the signs, help every woman know how to take action.”

“In the Philippines, one out of 13 women are affected, one of the highest incidences in southeast Asia,” said Rizvan Diratian, Avon Philippines general manager. “This is the reason that we take the Breast Cancer Promise seriously.”

Over last month, the Pink Minute campaign has lit including the SM Mall of Asia Globe, Manila City Hall, Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Eton Centris, the PET Plans building and the St. Francis Towers, as well as Avon branches across the country. At Quezon Memorial Circle, a program led by Avon celebrity ambassadors Ruffa Gutierrez, Bettinna Carlos and Daniel Matsunaga brought in three special speakers to drive home the campaign’s final messages.

Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte organizes regular medical visits to the city’s barangays together with the Philippine Cancer Society (PCS), and is herself a long-time advocate for awareness against breast and cervical cancer.

“Did you know that I, my mother, two of my aunts, a cousin and one of my nieces have had breast cancer?” the Vice Mayor said, emphasizing the disease’s devastating reach upon her and her family. “Which means it runs in our blood, which also means we should be doubly careful,” she said.

AVON PH Ambassador Ruffa Gutierrez.

Dr. Rachael Rosario, executive director of the Philippine Cancer Society and also a cancer survivor, then conducted a friendly and effective explanation on proper breast self-examination. Women should start doing breast self-exams regularly starting at the age of 20, one week from the end of menstruation and continue doing this once a month even after they’ve reached menopause, she said.

Franz Tolentino, Avon representative since 2006, gave her brave testimony about her 15-year battle against the disease, which recurred last year, when they spotted three new lumps.

“In 2003, I was taking a bath when I detected a lump in my breast, so I had it examined at PGH. There, they saw that I had invasive ductal carcinoma, stage 3B,” she narrated.
She calls herself a “chop-chop” lady, who’s put up the fight of her life against the disease. “I have no more ovaries; I’ve lost one kidney, no gall bladders, one of my breasts and my bones are brittle.”

“For every part of my body that was removed, we had to make a sacrifice,” she said.
When she had to undergo breast surgery, one of her children decided to forego enrolment for a semester to help with expenses.

“It gave me more pain than my breast cancer, that for every part of my body that I lost, my children would have to make sacrifices to keep me alive,” she said with emotion.

She started attending cancer survivor support meetings at PGH, not knowing at the time Avon funded the meetings. She hadn’t joined yet as an Avon representative, either.

When she found out, she was inspired by what they were doing.

“They didn’t know us; we weren’t anything to them. And yet, they were so eager to support us and help us fight against breast cancer.”

When she finally joined Avon and learned more about their cancer awareness activities, she decided to pitch in with the campaign.

“Why not do this for myself, so I can also help my family, my children and other breast cancer survivors like me,” she said.

Early detection matters. For the remaining part of October, women who suspect they may need medical assistance can call the Avon Pink Minute Hotline (for Globe subscribers, 0917-155-PINK: for Smart subscribers, 0928-524’PINK) to schedule a free consultation, provided with the support of the Philippine Cancer Society.

Direct donations to the Philippine Cancer Society can be made at their Manila headquarters cashier’s office at 310 San Rafael Street, San Miguel, Manila, from Monday to Friday, 2 to 5 p.m.

To inquire, call their offices at 734-2126 or 734-2127 or email pcsi@philcancer.org.ph. For substantial donations, the PCS can make pick-up arrangements and issue a donor’s certificate. Official receipts are issued for all donations, which are tax-deductible.