A 2017 review of radiation oncology apps included a study that reported 157 products for radiation oncology professionals (46 iOS apps and 111 Android apps) and 25 patient-focused apps.11

Some apps might be useful both in clinical settings and as clinical research tools.12-14 Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and the University of Vermont in Burlington, reported that an experimental real-time pain-reporting app for patients with head and neck cancer undergoing cancer radiotherapy showed promise as an “ecological momentary assessment” tool for gathering patient-reported outcomes (PROs), which are increasingly used as clinical trial outcomes measure.12 Use can be improved by allowing patients to set app threshold alarm thresholds for 2-way communication with their cancer care team, the authors suggested.12

mHealth Apps and Features

Cancer apps for patients tend to fall into seven broad categories:


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  • Community apps
  • Cancer care team connection apps
  • Education apps
  • Smoking cessation apps
  • Symptoms and treatment tracker apps
  • Coping, calming, and pain management apps
  • Sleep and fatigue management apps

With the proliferation of popular topic- and cancer-specific social media platform patient discussion groups, such as Facebook cancer patient groups, the community features of cancer patient mHealth apps will likely become less useful to patients than other app features. However, with more than 1000 user ratings at the Play Store, the CaringBridge app appears to remain a popular way for patients to update friends and loved ones during treatment for cancer and other diseases, in a single place.15

Some apps include features from more than one of these categories. For example, the Rads4Kids app has both a treatment calendar and journal as well as education features to help prepare children with cancer and their parents for radiation therapy, explaining radiotherapy with a children’s storybook (in English and French), an interactive game that helps kids understand radiotherapy, and a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section for teens and parents.16,17

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Generic mHealth apps and chemotherapy-oriented apps can be useful during radiotherapy as well. chemoWave, for example, is a symptoms- and mood-tracking app that creates charts for patients; logs their sleep patterns, vital statistics, meals, water intake, and steps taken; and issues appointment and medication reminders.18 It also allows patients to share their logged experiences with others, including their cancer care team members.18 Patient reviews at the Play Store show that it is being used by radiotherapy patients.

The CareZone app reminds patients and their caregivers at home of medication schedules and appointments and allows them to review treatment plan notes.19

Untire is a cancer-related fatigue self-management app with education, symptoms tracking, and online community features that explain cancer- and cancer treatment-related fatigue, offers lifestyle tips and exercises, and weekly self-reporting of energy levels and fatigue.20 A protocol for a proposed randomized clinical trial of this product has been published but the trial has not yet been initiated.21 Chemo Brain similarly tracks patients’ self-reported cognitive performance issues during cancer treatment and includes prescription reminders.22

References

  1. Khazan O. Summit: medical devices going mobile. Washington Post. December 12, 2011:A31.   
  2. Cunha CE, Rernandes R, Santos CX, Boccaletti KW, Pellizzon ACA, Barbosa JHO. Viability of mobile applications for remote support of radiotherapy patients. Rev Assoc Med Bras. 2019;65(10):1321-1326.
  3. Ramsey WA, Heidelberg RE, Gilbert AM, Heneghan MB, Badawy SM, Alberts NM. eHealth and mHealth interventions in pediatric cancer: a systematic review of interventions across the cancer continuum. Psychooncology. 2020;29(1):17-37.
  4. How radiation therapy is used to treat cancer. American Cancer Society. Last revised December 27, 2019. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/radiation/basics.html
  5. American Cancer Society (ACS) Survivorship Care Guidelines App FAQs. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://www.cancer.org/health-care-professionals/national-cancer-survivorship-resource-center/survivorship-guidlines-app-faq.html
  6. Cancer.Net. Other mobile applications. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/managing-your-care/other-mobile-applications
  7. National Comprehensive Care Network. NCCN Patients Guides for Cancer app. Google Play. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mediaparts.nccn
  8. MD Anderson Cancer Center. MD Anderson Mobile. Google Play. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mymda
  9. RadOnc Toolbox app. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://www.roinstitute.org/Research-and-Education/RadOnc-Toolbox-App
  10. Nalley C. Improving the patient experience with a radiation oncology app. Oncol Times. 2020;42(1):35,37.
  11. Calero JJ, Oton LF, Oton CA. Apps for radiation oncology. A comprehensive review. Transl Oncol. 2017;10(1):108-114.
  12. Friedman JM, Ikizler O, Johnson K, et al. PrimeMD, a pain reporting smartphone application for patients undergoing head and neck radiation. OncLive. Published: May 1, 2017. https://www.onclive.com/publications/contemporary-radiation-oncology/2017/april-2017/primemd-a-pain-reporting-smartphone-application-for-patients-undergoing-head-and-neck-radiation
  13. Constantinescu G, Kuffel K, King B, Hodgetts W, Rieger J. Usability testing of an mHealth device for swallow therapy in head and neck cancer survivors. Health Informatics J. 2019;25(4):1373-1382.
  14. Purswani JH, Dicker AP, Champ CE, Cantor M, Ohri N. Big data from small devices: the future of smartphones in oncology. Semin Radiat Oncol. 2019;29(4):338-347.
  15. CareingBridge.org. CaringBridge. Google Play. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.caringbridge.app
  16. Apps. Pediatric Radiation Oncology Society. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://intpros.org/resources/apps/
  17. Awrey S. Navigating radiation therapy—an app for children and their families. J Med Imaging Radiat Sci. 2016;47(1):S14.
  18. Treatment Technologies & Insights. chemoWave: cancer health app. Google Play. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.chemowave.android
  19. CareZone Inc. CareZone app. App Store. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/carezone/id829841726
  20. Tired of Cancer B.V. Untire: beating cancer fatigue. Google Play. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tiredofcancer
  21. Spahrkäs SS, Looijmans A, Sanderman R, Hagedoorn M. Beating cancer-related fatigue with the Untire mobile app: protocol for a waiting list randomized controlled trial. JMIR Res Protoc. 2020;9(2):e15969.
  22. Hargrove K. Chemo Brain app. Google Play. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.katehargrove.chemobrain_symptomtracker

This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor