In the last decade, Greece has faced a socio-economic crisis and the highest reported unemployment rates of any European country. This made it even more challenging for people living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) to access health services, especially those living in rural areas and remote islands. Even in big cities, patients reported that they struggled “to figure out the path” to access treatment. There was a clear need for initiatives to improve access to information about MBC and implement innovative methods to support MBC patients living remote areas of the country. To address this, Women for Oncology-Hellas (W4O-Hellas) created the W4Life.gr, the first platform of its kind, in Greece, to offer an innovative, mobile-friendly interface that provides information and support for MBC patients, their families and their caregivers.
Coordinated by a committee of six female oncologists, W4O-Hellas is a network of female oncologists, nurses, and healthcare professionals practicing in Greece that exists to support other female oncological professionals, as well as women with cancer and their families.
“This is a new era in cancer treatment. Technological innovations are pushing the boundaries of treatment for cancer patients. At the same time, the Internet and the media (traditional and social) are powerful means of new medical information dissemination. Our patients ask for fresh information and we ought to provide them clear information from trusted organisations and sources. This is the scope: being supported and being supportive. This is the aim of W4life.”
Awarded with a SPARC MBC Challenge grant in 2015, W4O-Hellas joined forces with K.E.F.I. (an association of cancer patients) to create the Hellenic Alliance for Metastatic Breast Cancer, which exists both physically and virtually. The physical presence of the Alliance is primarily through its members who have participated in and/or organised conferences, in-person seminars, meetings, lectures and other activities. Simultaneously, the Alliance’s virtual presence is in the form of the online platform www.W4life.gr and through a ‘W4life’ application for smartphones. The goal of the Alliance, in all its forms, is to empower, support, inform and communicate, with MBC healthcare professionals as well as MBC patients, their families and caregivers throughout the country. Furthermore, it aims to educate its audience on the unique situation and differences of an MBC diagnosis and ‘map’ the situation across Greece regarding this group’s specific needs in order to help develop national, targeted programmes for MBC patients.
Through the application and the website created, MBC data has been collected from 1,358 doctors (Oncologists, Breast surgeons, Radiologists, Radiation Oncologists, and Breast Plastic Surgeons), and 431 organisations (hospitals, clinics, institutions, public-run clinics, public-run pharmacies, public-run markets, support groups). W4life contains information about social support and services for MBC patients, clinical studies, a glossary, lists of support groups, lists of doctors by name, as well as guides for patients. Through the platform, the users can also have access to a support line, chat, and forum. It is the first platform of its kind in Greece, not only for MBC but for breast cancer more widely, which has succeeded in compiling all of this information in one place and making it accessible to the public.
W4O-Hellas continues to maintain and update the W4life site and hopes to increase traffic to the platform. They also continue to organise events, all over Greece, in collaboration with patient groups and other organisations in order maintain personal contact with patients and spread the word about the project and all it has to offer.
Organisation's website: W4O-Hellas
Online platform: W4life
(Information from the project description and context is compiled from the SPARC reports)