As for other low resource countries in Sub Saharan Africa, most Nigerians diagnosed with cancer are identified at late stages. Indeed, women diagnosed through breast cancer screening programmes often already have Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) and the healthcare delivery system and infrastructures are ill-equipped to manage this disease. Access to treatment and psychosocial services is critical to prolong life and maintain its quality for individuals with MBC. There are only 14 cancer treatment centres in Nigeria situated in 10 of 36 states, and only four of these centres currently provide radiation therapy. The cost of treatment options is out of reach for most women, nationally, the six-course chemotherapy treatment has an average cost of $2,300 in a country where 152 million people (i.e. 77% of the population) live on under $2 a day (African Development Bank, 2018). For those who can afford treatment, waiting lists at treatment centres force them to travel to foreign destinations to seek treatment.
Against this background, there is a considerable emotional and psychological toll on MBC patients in Nigeria. Depression, anxiety and a consuming feeling of helplessness are recurring themes. Diagnosis with MBC is a life altering event, ‘One Call Away’ has been designed to help patients navigate diagnosis, treatment, as well as build and increase their support system.
Founded in 2009 and registered in 2012, Medicaid Cancer Foundation (MCF) is an NGO conceived out of the need to create a much-needed support system for patients, families and caregivers dealing with cancer.
MCF provides support throughout cancer’s full continuum – from diagnosis, to the myriad of questions and answers associated with treatment and care, through the journey to full survivorship, to managing the life-changing experience for the patients, families and caregivers. Their cancer awareness and screening programme reached 428,127 persons between 2015 and 2018, carrying out 4,366 free diagnostic screenings (974 mammograms) during this period. They have assisted 56 women cancer patients to access financial aid towards their treatment in the last two years. Lessons learnt in over ten years of working to help Nigerian women access screening and treatment options have informed the gaps the ‘One Call Away’ seeks to address.
One Call Away will operate primarily by providing toll-free helplines (telephone, online community chatroom access and a web-based resource centre) in English and the three major local languages (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba). The programme will serve as a one-stop shop where women can access all the information they require for healthcare and psychosocial services that is a good fit for their circumstances with the help of personal trained counsellors/navigators.
“The UICC SPARC grant will help ‘One Call Away’ link women diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer to treatment solutions appropriate for their unique circumstances and address the psychological specificity of MBC, prioritising the quality of life.”
One Call Away will link women diagnosed with MBC to treatment solutions appropriate for their unique situation and help to address the psychological aspects of MBC, supporting patients to acquire new coping skills for relieving stress, to increase their personal and social competence and their use of available social support, to increase family coherence, to enhance optimism and quality of life, and to help patients develop new values and priorities that comply with their current and future life situation.
This will be achieved by deploying a nationally available, toll-free helpline where beneficiaries can be supported by a personal counselor/navigator and the institution of two support groups in Kebbi State and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja).
‘One Call Away’ will help women diagnosed with MBC remain in control of their lives, ensuring they have access to all the information they need to make informed choices about their health and facilitate their engagement with a strong support network. Engagement with a support group is not for everyone, therefore, aiding family members and caregivers with the tools they need to care for their loved ones will be prioritised.
The project aims to link 1200 women with MBC to appropriate treatment options within eight weeks of contacting ‘One Call Away’ and provide psychosocial services to both them and their caregivers. Support group centres will be set up in two Nigerian states and a national network of 60 counsellors/navigators will be trained and supported.
In the long term, One Call Away should institutionalise a coordinated breast cancer support structure that is easily accessible to beneficiaries across Nigeria.
(Information from the project description and context is compiled from the grant application)