Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Nigeria, and most cases are diagnosed at advanced stages. Living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) presents many challenges, both for the person diagnosed and their caregivers, leaving them feeling uncertain, anxious, overwhelmed and afraid of the future. In many cases, patients living with MBC in Nigeria have given up hope, and therefore no longer adhere to their treatment plans or discontinue their treatment altogether. There is a need to encourage MBC patients to stay positive despite their diagnosis and to continue their care.
The care of patients with metastatic and locally advanced breast cancer is usually confined to the four walls of the hospital. Most of these patients lose hope when informed of the extent and prognosis of their condition. This project aims to extend the care of patients with MBC beyond clinic hours to create an enabling psychosocial environment where they can maintain their dignity. In this way patients’ quality of life can be improved both directly through psychosocial support and indirectly by providing similar support to their caregivers.
Nigeria has an estimated 193 million population, with 162 million mobile subscriptions, amounting to 84% of the population. The use of mobile technology therefore has the potential to help patients and practitioners overcome multiple barriers in the delivery of healthcare. The MobiPINK project’s goal is to provide relevant information and support for treatment navigation and care to metastatic breast cancer patients and caregivers via mobile technology.
Cancer Aware Nigeria - One Kind Act Foundation is a Lagos-based women's cancer charity, which is a registered non-profit in Nigeria and a member of UICC. It has experience in prevention and early detection of cancer in Nigeria and its current programmes include an HPV vaccination campaign in South West Nigeria and the "Know Your Normal Breast” Health Initiative which focuses on equipping front line community health workers in primary health centres in Lagos to better identify cases of breast cancer.
The proposed project aims to provide relevant and timely information about treatment, navigation and care to metastatic breast cancer patients and their caregivers via mobile technology.
It includes the development of an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) feature which sends automated SMS reminders to the mobile phones of MBC patients receiving care at the Oncology department of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. USSD is a communication technology that is used to send text between a mobile phone and an application programme in the network. It does not require the use of the internet, making it an easy and inexpensive tool as it can be accessed by any participant with a mobile phone.
The text-message reminders will be delivered via a cloud-based communication platform specifically developed for the project, and information and resources will also be sent to MBC patients and their caregivers via SMS and WhatsApp. Psychosocial support will be available on demand to MBC patients, and early warning signs of depression can be detected, and their quality of life of will be monitored and assessed.
'In Nigeria, metastatic breast cancer patients and their caregivers are often forgotten and isolated. We are extremely honoured to receive the SPARC award from UICC and Pfizer Oncology which will support our project’s initiation and ensure we are able to address the unmet needs of the MBC community in our country'
Text messaging has expanded into the healthcare space as a health communication tool for patient health information, reminders, motivation, and support. Therefore, there is great potential in using mobile technologies to disseminate information and offer support services to MBC patients and their caregivers.
The MobiPINK project is the first of its kind in Nigeria, a solution leveraging mobile technology to solve the gaps in the care of metastatic breast cancer patients and also offering support to the caregivers. Improving communications between MBC patients and their medical team will play a pivotal role in reducing dropouts from treatment and ultimately improve quality of life.
(Information from the project description and context is compiled from the grant application)