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The online resource offering support to those with metastatic breast cancer

An online support tool, designed to assist individuals in navigating the psychological effects of their diagnosis of advanced/metastatic breast cancer, has commenced its testing phase.

An innovative online support tool, aimed at helping individuals navigate the psychological impact of their diagnosis of advanced/metastatic breast cancer, has entered the testing phase. Those affected by the disease are invited to participate and trial the program, which is provided free of charge.

The tool, titled “Finding My Way – Advanced,” has been developed by researchers at Flinders University, with the collaboration and support of Breast Cancer Network Australia and Cancer Council SA. It is specifically tailored to assist individuals coping with stage 4, or advanced metastatic breast cancer, a condition that, while treatable, remains incurable.

Associate Professor Lisa Beatty, a clinical psychologist and developer of the program at Flinders University’s College of Education, Psychology, and Social Work, notes that while metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured, advancements in medical treatment have significantly improved control over the disease. Consequently, many individuals now live longer lives, with some surpassing a decade post-diagnosis.

“While that initial program has had a positive impact, we realised the materials weren’t suited for those with an advanced stage diagnosis and we were missing the opportunity to support an important part of the cancer community,” says Associate Professor Beatty.

“People with metastatic cancer are often overlooked when it comes to support services, so we wanted to create something that was targeted to their unique circumstances.

“We’re starting with advanced breast cancer for this trial, but our hopes are to also tailor the program to other advanced cancers in the future.”

With funding from Cancer Australia, Associate Professor Beatty and her team are embarking on a significant study to assess the efficacy of Finding My Way – Advanced. Their goal is to eventually make it accessible to all at no cost.

Presently, the support service is exclusively accessible to participants in the study. However, recruitment efforts are ongoing, and the researchers encourage those interested in utilising the program to reach out (details provided below) or enrol directly through the website.

Delivered online, with people able to access it in the privacy of their own home and at their own pace, the program contains cognitive behavioural therapy, alongside relaxation and mindfulness techniques and writing exercises.

There are six modules available;

1. Navigating healthcare

The unique challenges: (particularly living with fear of progression and uncertainty

3. Physical symptoms

4. Emotional distress

5. How you see yourself

6. Your family and friends: How to build a support network and also support your loved ones and children

“Finding my Way – Advanced provides a wealth of information to the individual following their diagnosis but beyond that it includes evidence-based strategies to help them through this difficult time in their life,” says Associate Professor Beatty.

“Initial feedback from users has included finding the program helpful and relatable, easy to use, and of high quality. The online aspect has been particularly valued as it is convenient, accessible at any time, and enables women to self-pace their progress; ‘If I didn’t want to finish that module, I didn’t have to so I could go out and then come back in later ‘.”

“As medicine continues to advance and more people live with these incurable cancers for longer, this population will only continue to grow, and we need to ensure they are well supported with evidence-backed services that are easily accessible.”

Vicki Durston, Director of Policy, Advocacy, and Support Services at BCNA, emphasised the importance of this online program as a vital resource for individuals facing a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. She noted that it offers valuable support throughout the journey, addressing aspects such as diagnosis, treatment, and overall well-being.

“I’d really like to acknowledge the two BCNA Consumer Representatives, who are living with metastatic breast cancer, who were advisers on the design of the resource,” Ms Durston said.

“BCNA has been proud to be part of this long-standing research partnership with Flinders University on a project that will have a significant impact for people living with metastatic breast cancer.”

For more information or to join the trial, click here.

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