Women with advanced or metastatic breast cancer are now able to participate in a Flinders University trial of a free, online coping program from anywhere around the world, thanks to a new project funded through Cancer Council SA’s Beat Cancer Project.
Finding My Way – Advanced is a free online self-help coping program that offers information, activities, suggestions and support for women who have recently been diagnosed with advanced or metastatic breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian women. Over 19,300 women are diagnosed every year—of those women, over 3,000 will lose their life.
Lead researcher, Senior Research Fellow Dr Lisa Beatty from Flinders University, hopes that through Finding My Way – Advanced, women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer will be able to find support through a program tailored specifically to them.
“When patients find out that their cancer has metastasised or spread, often they feel overwhelmed. We found that many women with metastatic breast cancer felt it was difficult to learn about, find and access information that is important and relevant, which is why we developed this resource.”
“Our hope is that this program will be able to meet the needs of many women with respect to helping them navigate the emotional, social and physical challenges their metastatic breast cancer may present.”
“Our program provides six different modules or topics relating to communicating with their medical team, navigating fear of progression and how to live with uncertainty, coping with physical symptoms and side effects, the emotional distress they may be experiencing, identity concerns, and social support issues.”
“It also has videos from health care professionals and from women living with metastatic breast cancer, so there is something in there that we hope all women with metastatic breast cancer will be able to relate to,” she said
Dr Beatty hopes that through offering the program online, it will enable women anywhere around the world to access support in the privacy of their own home.
“I think the scope and need for providing online resources to those who may be physically too unwell, or limited, to attend face-to-face therapy is huge. We live in an economic climate where the pressure on existing health system resources is so high that we have to think outside the square, otherwise we do a disservice to those who need it most,” she said.
“My hope is that Finding My Way – Advanced helps to provide that service.”
Robyn Combes from Mitchell Park was originally diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago. She is currently living with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and was a consumer representative on Finding My Way – Advanced.
“When you first receive that initial diagnosis, shock sets in and you feel like you can’t make any decisions—fear really does take over,” she said.
“Through the program I was able to regain some of that control and make decisions that were relevant to me. By being able to access different modules or topics at different times I was able to take in the information I wanted, when it was relevant to me,” she said.
“When I was first diagnosed 20 years ago, there was initial support, but it wasn’t ongoing and didn’t help me deal with my fears. Finding My Way – Advanced has helped me do that.”
Having lived overseas for more than 17 years, Robyn said she has seen first-hand how the program can provide invaluable support to women in other countries.
“I’ve lived in Indonesia and China and there just isn’t the support there that we have in Australia. I feel like this program has the potential to not only help Australian women, but women around the world,” she said.
Finding My Way – Advanced was funded through a Cancer Council Beat Cancer Project Grant in collaboration with Flinders University, with key stakeholder support from Breast Cancer Network Australia.
For more information and to access the program visit the website here.