In Zambia, breast cancer constitutes the second leading cause of cancer mortality after cervical cancer. According to the Global Women’s Health Fund Zambia (GWHF), incidence of breast cancer among sub-Saharan African (SSA) women are among the lowest in the world, however, between 45-90% of breast cancer cases were diagnosed at stages III or IV. To better understand the concerns of women in Lusaka diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), in terms of their quality of life, GWHF designed a cross-sectional study using questionnaires and focus groups to collect data.
In 2015, GWHF was awarded a SPARC MBC Challenge grant to implement the project titled ‘Quality of life for women with MBC’ aimed at identifying the needs of patients living with MBC.
“Inviting the grantees to come together at the ABC3 Conference and then the World Cancer Congress was a wonderful opportunity to meet other like-minded individuals who were doing similar work in other countries. It was very helpful for sharing ideas and inspiring everyone to move their projects forward.” Groesbeck Parham, Honorary Lecturer at University of Zambia
Study participants were recruited through a number of collaborating facilities: the Cancer Diseases Hospital, Breast Cancer Control Referral Clinic and the University of Zambia’s Department of Surgery, all located in Lusaka on the campus of the university’s teaching hospital, which is the only tertiary medical care facility in the country. Though 72 indigenous languages are spoken in Zambia, most of the women living in Lusaka speak English, Nyanja and/or Bemba, and so the study was conducted in these three languages.
Participants were given the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT) questionnaires, which cover questions on cancer in general and on breast cancer specifically. As part of the project, the FACT questionnaires were translated into Nyanja and Bemba.
GWHF planned for focus groups (consisting of 5-10 women) to be conducted in the study languages. The focus groups were designed for the women to voice their concerns regarding their quality of life, the kinds of medical and/or social support they needed as well as to suggest interventions that they believe would be beneficial.
As the project involved multiple academic institutions within Zambia as well as outside of the country, the project incurred delays due to the need to obtain the ethical approval from the University of California, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Zambia. In parallel, this project had challenges in recruiting the 150 patients who were to take the questionnaire, due to suspected overestimates of advanced breast cancer survivors in Lusaka. Due to these challenges, limited information is available on the project as well as on the results of the study.
In 2019, four years after receiving the SPARC grant, GWHF has closed definitively. The research group is currently working to reopen the study in order to complete the project with several new collaborators at Cancer Diseases Hospital.
(Information from the project description and context is compiled from the SPARC reports)