From the very first moment after a cancer diagnosis, though treatments and even into survivorship, it is common to feel anxious and scared. Initially, there is often little time to process the shock and suddenness of it all whilst having to make decisions about what course of treatment to take. In the months following the initial diagnosis, most patients find it difficult to absorb and retain information with so much going on.
Two oncologists from Sydney listened to patients expressing these emotions when working at a cancer centre in Sydney. They wanted to find a way to empower their patients and liberate them from feeling a lack of control over their care.
3 years ago they created CancerAid, an app to assist patients to get familiar with their new normal, feel empowered during their treatment timeline and beyond, monitor their symptoms, allowing patients to keep loved ones and doctors up to date with their care needs more effectively.
The app is free allowing everyone affected by cancer to access personalised, medically reliable information about cancer, track and share symptoms, feelings and appointments in a journal, nominate friends and family members to support, access a feed with supportive advice, cancer research, wellbeing tips and a community of fellow patients and caregivers.
How the Idea Moved from Paper to Screen
The founders, Dr Nikhil Pooviah and Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh used to give their patients a piece of paper to write down symptoms on. They asked for the paper to be brought back for the next appointment so they could make better treatment decisions based on the patient's individual reaction.
This way their patients was invited to be apart of their own care team. It was noticed that those who kept track of how they were going by noting down conditions, symptoms and medications had better outcomes. The antiquated method of bringing paper back and forth did, although effective, not work well in the long run. The critical information on that piece of paper was insufficient when worn, ripped or forgotten.
A Welcomed Innovation in the Cancer Community
Since the initial idea the CancerAid app has assisted more than 20.000 patients to manage their cancer diagnosis, its been ranked #1 in the app store in US, the UK and Australia, received awards from Steve Wozniak of Apple and Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group and won one of the largest deals in Shark Tank Australia’s history.
The CancerAid app was designed, developed and launched after a comprehensive amount of research, expert advice and patient interviews had been assessed. Today the app is developed by healthcare professionals and an in-house team of experienced developers and designers that continuously invites patients to give them feedback on how the app can improve.
Research Support Digital Innovation in Cancer Care
Today, we know that tracking symptoms and activities can result in health benefits and recent research reveals that cancer patients tracking symptoms can contribute to improved outcomes.
A study presented at ASCO, the world largest cancer conference revealed that people with cancer who record their symptoms during treatment and share them with their doctor enjoy a better quality of life, are less likely to be admitted to hospital and most remarkably have a better chance of survival. Basch at al (2017)
It’s no surprise to the CancerAid team that most used feature is the in-app community where patients and caregivers are welcome to share their stories to support others.
Isolation is a common feeling amongst patients, in CancerAid people connect with others going through similar experiences and feel comforted by hearing how others have managed their symptoms, treatments and journey.CancerAid encourages feedback and suggestion from users and the community so that they can improve the app and make sure it meets the needs of today’s cancer patients.
Basch at al (2017). Overall Survival Results of a Trial Assessing Patient-Reported Outcomes for Symptom Monitoring During Routine Cancer Treatment. JAMA, 318(2), p.197.