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Leveraging mobile technology for metastatic breast cancer patients and caregivers in Nigeria

Themes: 
Information and support gap

Context

An event organised by One Kind Act Foundation

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, often 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.

There is wide use of mobile technology in Nigeria, in 2021, 95% of the population were mobile subscribers [1]. The use of mobile technology therefore has the potential to help patients and practitioners overcome some of the barriers and challenges faced in the delivery of healthcare and support for MBC patients.

CancerAware Nigeria - One Kind Act Foundation is a Lagos-based women's cancer charity, which is a registered non-profit in Nigeria. The focus of its work is the prevention and early detection of cancer in Nigeria, with programmes including an HPV vaccination campaign in Southwest Nigeria and the “Know Your Normal Breast” Health Initiative, which focuses on helping frontline community health workers in primary health centres in Lagos to better identify potential breast cancer cases.

Quote image of Tolulope Falowo, One Kind Act Foundation

“Without the funding and support received from the SPARC MBC Challenge and UICC, our MobiPINK Breast Cancer Project would have remained a pipe dream and the thousands of individuals who have benefited from it both directly and indirectly would not have been able to. The project team had long identified the gaps and problems encountered by MBC patients in the course of their treatment journey, however the lack of funding was a major hindrance to deploying the solutions we had developed. We are grateful to the UICC and the SPARC MBC Challenge for the opportunity and their continued support.”

Tolulope Falowo

Project description

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In October 2019, CancerAware Nigeria was awarded a SPARC grant for their project the MobiPINK Breast Cancer Project. As 95% of Nigerians are mobile subscribers, the project proposed by CancerAware Nigeria sought to leverage the use of mobile technology to help patients overcome barriers in accessing breast cancer services and support. The MobiPINK Breast Cancer Project’s goal is to provide relevant information and support to MBC patients and their caregivers via mobile technology.

To do so, the project aimed to achieve three main goals: 

  • Provide relevant and timely information for treatment navigation and care 
  • Improve the quality of life of MBC patients by the provision of psycho-social support 
  • Improve communication between MBC patients and their medical team, and increase adherence to treatment modalities.

To address the first goal, CancerAware produced a range of culturally appropriate education and communication materials on MBC including topics such as: “Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer”, “Making the Most of your Oncologist's Appointment”, “Exercise & Lymphedema”, “Should I get the COVID-19 Vaccine while facing Metastatic Breast Cancer?”, “Your Mental Health during the Cancer Journey”, “Feeling Depressed? We Are Here to Help”, “Muscle Pain During Cancer Treatment”, “Radiation Therapy”, “Healthy Eating”, and “On a Lighter Note”. A Q&A digital guide on MBC was also created. Patients received direct support through navigation services deployed at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, and through online services such as a helpline, Whatsapp group and automated SMS system providing patients with information on MBC as well as appointment reminders.

Psycho-social support was made available on demand to MBC patients enrolled in the navigation programme and when early warning signs of depression were detected patients were referred to a psycho-oncologist. Two virtual support groups meetings were proposed and conducted on Whatsapp and Zoom. 

Finally, to improve communications between patients and the MobiPINK Breast Cancer Project medical team, the MobiPINK Breast Cancer Project team ensures that each patient had at least one meeting with a medical team member to discuss their options and answer questions. 

Impact

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The MobiPINK Breast Cancer Project set-up a solution leveraging mobile technology to help improve the sharing of information with patients, improve adherence to treatment and enhance communication between patients and medical teams. 

In the first stage of the project educational resources for MBC patients were developed. The team recruited an initial cohort of 338 MBC patients and 527 caregivers in the Lagos University Teaching Hospital and the NSIA - LUTH Cancer Centre to access information, resources and support.

The second stage of the project involved launching a helpline where patients could access a patient navigator to provide them with support during treatment. In the first year of the project, over 200 patients were supported and this number continues to grow. Patients were also screened to assess the need for further or tailored psycho-oncological support. A total of 16 patients were referred to psycho-oncology services, with approximately half accepting this support. 

“I was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer. The MobiPINK Breast Cancer Project helped me get closer to my oncologist by enabling me to interact with them virtually without having to visit the hospital. Also, when I suffered bouts of depression, I was scheduled to see a phyco-oncologist at no cost. The MobiPINK support group disseminates accurate information concerning my treatment at the cancer centre. The patient navigator helps to reduce my stress when I come to the hospital by making my visit smoother and easier.”

Monisola O., Metastatic Breast Cancer Patient

In addition to successfully achieving the goals of the project, the MobiPINK Breast Cancer Project also held two virtual meetings to support patients and their caregivers and to commemorate Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. They hosted two MBC conferences themed “The Challenges of Metastatic Breast Cancer in Nigeria: Closing the Gaps” in 2020 and “My Story: Living with Breast Cancer & Caring for Persons Living with Breast Cancer” in 2021. It is envisaged that the MobiPink Breast Cancer Project services developed will continue serving patients and there are plans to replicate the programme in other tertiary health institutions across south-west Nigeria to expand the services nationally. 

More about the project

References

(Information from the project description and context is compiled from the final SPARC report)

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Last update: 
Thursday 10 March 2022