New apps aim to guide men through treatment, symptom management of prostate cancer

By Heather Mack
Share

The American Cancer Society is supporting research at the the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research (the research arm of New York’s Northwell Health system), which is working on an app to guide people living with prostate cancer through the treatment decision process.

Dr. Michael Diefenbach, director of behavioral research at Northwell Health’s department of medicine and urology and a scientist with Feinstein Institute, demonstrated the initial research of the app at the center’s Centricity Series Symposia after conducting a usability study.

Since people diagnosed with prostate cancer usually face a variety of treatments –from immediate surgery or radiation or ongoing observation until risk increases – patients have to carefully consider the potential side effects of treatment, such as incontinence or impotence. The app, which can be used on a smartphone, tablet or desktop, leads the patient through the initial decision process and provides questions based on their choices, and then using an algorithm to match their preferences to a treatment option. From there, patients can email the results to their doctor and discuss their potential plans.

"Making treatment decisions can be daunting with any type of cancer, but it can be particularly difficult for men dealing with prostate cancer as it has a big impact on very basic everyday physical functions," Diefenbach said in a statement. "My goal in previewing the app at the Centricity Symposium is to show the benefit of incorporating modern technology into research and treatment options, as well as making health care professionals aware that this tool has the potential to successfully guide patients through their cancer treatment."

Next, Diefenbach’s team will next work on a larger, randomized controlled trial to further study the app and gauge how helpful it could be in a clinical setting. 

In related news, men’s cancer survivor support and advocacy nonprofit Malecare has launched a new mobile app to track cancer symptoms.

Cancergraph, designed by cancer survivors and caregivers, works to help men diagnosed with one or more cancers (usually prostate) to track symptoms and side effects, ultimately leading to more informed and detailed conversations with their doctor. 

App users can choose from cancer types, medications and concerns, and can peruse a list of over 200 symptoms and side effects to pull into their personal profile. Cancergraph then distills the data into a report users can view on their phone and email to doctors. The app also features a journal function, so users can document every aspect of their experience, and they can also take disease and symptom-related photos that can be stored securely within the app.

“For anyone who is going through cancer this is an invaluable tool,” Malecare founder Darryl Mitteldorf said in a statement. “The ability to accurately keep track of symptoms and side effects changes cancer care for both the patient and doctor.”