SBCN holds an academic forum across four regions to improve the quality of life for patients with recurrent and metastatic breast cancer

SBCN holds an academic forum across four regions to improve the quality of life for patients with recurrent and metastatic breast cancer

According to the Ministry of Public Health, 84,073 Thais die every year from cancer (1), with breast cancer being the most common among Thai women. Recurrence of and metastatic breast cancer often discourages patients from getting treatment as many women remain unaware that with early detection, diagnosis and appropriate treatment at early stage, cancer patients can have a better quality of life and spend longer time with their loved ones.

The Suandok Breast Cancer Network (SBCN) will continue to hold the Thai breast cancer network academic forum with the aim of providing updated knowledge on monitoring and treatment in order to reduce barriers and increase access to appropriate treatment for recurrent and metastatic breast cancer patients. The forum also helps to strengthen the network, allowing patients to get screened and receive timely treatment, while creating treatment guidelines applicable across the hospital network in Northern Thailand.

Prof. Dr. Imjai Chitapanarux, Chair of the Suandok Breast Cancer Network (SBCN), said, "In addition to offering knowledge-based training on new aspects of treatment and care for breast cancer, this is the first time SBCN has initiated a network forum where representatives of breast cancer networks share their practical experiences from the four regions (northern, southern, central and northeastern). By doing so, we are strengthening the network along with a patient referral service system for recurrent and metastatic breast cancer patients, especially in remote areas, allowing patients to receive timely care and treatment. This can increase cancer survival rates while improving the quality of life of patients."

SBCN aims to strengthen the hospital network, reduce barriers and increase opportunities for breast cancer patients, so they have quick and easy access to treatment, while ensuring there are treatment guidelines in place. This includes developing an online queuing system that allows patients to easily receive a screening test, plan and schedule surgery, and become a one-stop service for breast cancer patients. Continuous knowledge-based training is also provided to personnel at all levels, including doctors, nurses, and village health volunteers to assist in the appropriate monitoring and follow-up of patients with recurrent and metastatic breast cancer.

“We provide training on recurrent and metastatic breast cancer. On average, 90% of all stage breast cancer patients have long survival rates. Hence, there are chances that cancer can reoccur after the treatment,” said Prof. Dr. Imjai.

Village Health Volunteers are going strong... Growing the network to better reach communities
SBCN currently has 500 medical personnel and village health volunteers and expects this number to increase with continuous knowledge-based training. Ruangtong Chankaew, Village Health Volunteer, Nong Chang Keun Sub-district Health Promoting Hospital, Lamphun, who joined the training session, said, “Most volunteers recognise the importance of this training and look forward to joining the sessions. They also understand how this platform can be valuable in helping to provide better care for patients. During the first year since joining the network, I took part in a knowledge sharing field visit with the network and we found that 10 women were diagnosed with breast cancer out of 3,000 people in the community, most of whom were detected at an early stage. Essentially, patients received consultations from the Sub-district Health Promoting Hospital and went through the online patient referral service system for treatment in Lamphun Hospital. These patients received prompt treatment and were able to save on expenses and travelling time. The main duty of village health volunteers is to go on field trips to follow-up on symptoms, provide encouragement, and explain the procedures and side effects of treatments so that patients know how to take better care of themselves. Patients in remission also received guidance in monitoring for symptoms to immediately detect any recurrence.”

The next step of the project… The challenge of palliative care
“SBCN achieved an approximately 70% success rate with the cooperation of public and private entities that both supported and recognised the importance of knowledge-based training for medical personnel and village health volunteers, who are considered the driving force in advancing local health care for people in the community. We aim to improve the readiness of our personnel in providing palliative care for patients with late-stage breast cancer, so they receive the appropriate treatment, both physically and mentally. As part of this effort, SCBN kicked-off a training session in Chiang Mai, with follow-ups anticipated in four provinces in the northern region, including Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Phayao and Lamphun. We expect the scope of this project to expand, covering all of these provinces within five years (2021-2025), which will result in a more comprehensive treatment of breast cancer,” said Prof. Dr. Imjai.

Sumalee Kristarnin, Country President of Novartis (Thailand) Limited said, “Novartis recognises the importance of treating breast cancer, for both newly diagnosed and recurrent patients, whose numbers have increased every year. With our mission to reimagine patient’s lives, we are ready to support stakeholders across all sectors, including SBCN, in continuously organising knowledge-based training for medical personnel, village health volunteers, and patients to improve access to treatment. We are delighted to witness the strength of the Thai Breast Cancer Network and proud to be part of this partnership in enhancing accessibility to treatment for patients with recurrent and metastatic breast cancer. We hope to see the increase in the survival rate to more than five years and a better quality of life for patients.”

(1) (Information for 2019 from the Strategy and Planning Division Office of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Health)

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