One of my earliest memories is of being snuck into a hospital room when I was four years old.
Children weren’t allowed in the Intensive Care Unit, and after a short while I remember rushing out through the back stairwell with my parents so the nurse wouldn’t see me. It was the last time I saw my grandmother alive; she died of stomach cancer a few days later.These tools give patients a greater sense of control over their own condition and treatment Click To Tweet
So I suppose Cancer has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, yet I know I’m not alone. Everyone, at some point will be affected by the Big C. Whether directly or through someone they love. But we’ve come a long way since my grandmother died; Advances in medical research have seen survival rates rise dramatically, and there is a lot more information and support available to help patients cope.Everyone is likely to be affected by cancer at some point Click To Tweet
It all starts with prevention, of course, and apps such as Breast Check Now can help you catch some of the most common types of the disease early on. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the chance of a successful treatment, so it can be helpful for patients to tap into a growing crop of Medical Diagnosis Apps which provide information on possible causes of worrying symptoms. They’re no replacement for a doctor’s expertise of course, but can help you prompt the right questions and feel empowered to push to have certain tests done, and that, as I recently found out with a misdiagnosis in the family, can make a huge difference.Diagnosis apps can empower patients to push for exams and ask doctors the right questions Click To Tweet
For those who have received a cancer diagnosis, though, it’s a lot for them – and their loved ones – to process, and that can feel overwhelming, specially as there are often complicated administrative arrangements to cover, keeping track of medication, making sure you’re getting the right nutrition to support your immune system, and generally ensuring you’re getting the best possible treatment. I did some digging around and found a few very helpful free tools available to help you get through this most difficult of times:There are lots of free apps to help cancer patients cope with the challenges of treatment Click To Tweet
If you’re only going to download one app, it should probably be the Cancer.net one. It’s available on both iOS and Android and you get started by selecting a type of cancer for which you can download information packs that you can read offline at any point (the enormity of that list of cancer types was sobering in itself).
It then offers up a whole plethora of useful features which you can use flexibly, such as a list of suggested questions you might want to ask your consultant or other healthcare professional (you can add your own) and a facility to voice-record the answers so you don’t have to worry about remembering everything later. I also really like the facility to take photos of your medication and keep track of what you need to take, plus a symptom diary to help you manage them. The information provided in the app was quite in-depth, while being written in accessible and clear language. If you feel like digging a bit deeper into relevant medical research, however, PubMed on Tap gives you access to the latest papers (iOS only).
Another nifty tool I found was DrawMD, which is really useful in helping doctors explain and visualise their diagnosis for patients. You get a template where the doctor can personalise by drawing and writing on it– showing, for instance, the position of a tumour relative to certain organs, or where a surgical incision would be made. You can use it straight away without registering, but once you do register for free there is also the handy option to save and share those templates via email, for example.
Cancer treatment takes a physical toll as well as a psychological one, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting the best nutrition possible. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute put together a specially designed app called Ask the Nutritionist to help you guide you through, with lots of easy recipe suggestions and useful information, as well as the chance to a nutritionist any burning questions you might have.
Caring Bridge is also an interesting proposition, where you basically create your own website on their platform where you share information about your treatment with a pre-selected group of people, so you don’t have to worry about constantly updating your loved ones on how things are going. I like the idea as it doubles up as a treatment diary, which many patients find helpful to keep for themselves, and also lets you create and reach out to your friends and family when you need a bit of extra emotional support.
These tools all add up to give patients a greater sense of control over their own condition and treatment, and to better manage the stress and worry that inevitably come with the diagnosis. If you’d like to share any tools that you found useful, reach out and join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.
Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio and @techtrends_tech on Twitter.
Also published on Medium.