In Bulgaria, breast cancer is over 25% of all new cancers in women of all ages and is the third leading cause of death. Due to the complexity and alarming nature of the diagnosis, patients may have resistance to processing information about treatment options, as consultation with their doctors is often insufficient.
Nurses can act as a carrier of reliable information for patients with metastatic breast cancer. To support patients with advanced breast cancer to actively participate in their own treatment, The Association of Cancer Patients and Friends has launched the ABC Patient Academy. By engaging nurses and educating patients, those, who benefit from this program, they can make informed decisions and adhere better to treatment.
Association of Cancer Patients and Friends (APOZ) is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to change society's attitude towards cancer and the acceptance of the disease, to advocate for patients' rights and work to increase access to quality and affordable treatment.
Through 2015 r. APOZ received a grant for the SPARC MBC Challenge to implement the ABC Patient Academy.
During the first three months of the program, training materials for nurses were prepared, as well as educational materials for patients with advanced breast cancer. The Bulgarian Association of Healthcare Professionals and the Bulgarian Oncology Society were key partners in various elements of the project. The Bulgarian Oncology Society reviewed training and educational materials for correctness and quality, and the Bulgarian Association of Healthcare Professionals presented the perspective on the role of the nurse in helping the patient to actively participate in treatment.
The nurses, trained by APOZ, were equipped to provide relevant and accurate information to patients with advanced breast cancer, treated at their respective cancer treatment centers.
APOZ reported successfully trained 95 nurses from 30 oncology center in Bulgaria, which reached over 450 patients with advanced breast cancer in the first year of the project. The nurses provided on average 40 consultations per month throughout the country. 86% of the patients expressed lower levels of anxiety after interacting with nurses.
According to the nurses, only 15% patients understood the outcome of their illness and the treatment options offered, before entering the program. Until the end of the program 81% of enrolled patients reported, that they have a better understanding of their disease and treatment options.
The results of this project demonstrate the important role, which nurses can play in caring for patients with advanced breast cancer. In this case, the nurses become reliable informants, with whom patients talk openly about their disease, its consequences and condition.