I enjoy finding programs and services that improve the way I live with metastatic cancer. These can be things I take advantage of in-person, such as the Livestrong and YMCA collaboration, which re-introduced me to muscle-strengthening after my cancer diagnosis, but one of my favorite new ways to better my life with cancer is through "apps" on my phone. Three entries have quickly become don't-miss technology for me as a patient, providing three very different experiences.
First up is My MBC & Me, created by Share Cancer Support. Some months ago, I was invited by Share to be part of a group of patients providing (free) feedback as it developed the app. I have been waiting to see how the organization incorporated the patients' many suggestions about what we need in an app designed to help us clarify our concerns, goals, treatments and more.
On this app, I can quickly get into a section to upload links to research I want to share; I can pose questions for my doctor by typing or speaking into my phone; and I can record visit notes on the app itself with clear identification of the date and which doctor was seen. I can keep track of symptoms and treatments through typed words and also through pictures.
All of these features will continue to be useful to me as a person with cancer because they encourage me to follow-up with questions and concerns. I believe there will be times when .PDF printouts of the information will be useful to share with my healthcare team. Too often, I find that office visits don't allow enough time to get across what my life is actually like. I can see how being organized ahead of time, with concerns printed out in a standard form will make it easier to communicate. Right now, this app is only available for iPhone users.
I am also a fan of the MBC Alliance app MBC Connect (also available on the web), which, among other things, aggregates data from the metastatic breast cancer patients who complete surveys on the app/website. While My MBC & Me is designed to improve communication between yourself and the rest of your healthcare team, MBC Connect brings survey data and resources to you through its “Insights” tab. In addition, the aggregate de-identified data is available to researchers who can use it to find trends and solidify research ideas or submit questions for additional surveys on the app.
One planned expansion to MBC Connect, "coming soon" I've been told, is linking to clinical trial information. I think this is an exciting prospect since this app's style is to "push" information to you based on what you enter. If all I have to do is click a "Trials" tab to see a list aligned to my needs, the app could encourage discussion of clinical trials with my oncologist when I need to change treatment. It is so much easier when the information is given to you rather than you having to search it out.
Also present on my phone's dashboard is the Army of Women app, which is new from the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. Army of Women is a program that seeks to unite researchers with the research participants they need. It is possible to go to Army of Women online to find the trials, but the app is nice because it is easy to filter research to your specifics. Once you enter that information, in the “Participate” area, you will receive studies that may be of interest along with a link to connect you to the researcher (where you will need to answer further questions). It is important to keep in mind that the research on Army of Women is only a small percentage of all the cancer research being conducted in the United States and elsewhere. Larger trial search engines, such as that at clinicaltrials.gov or more specific search engines, such as the metastatic breast cancer trial search, will provide a more complete idea of current research.
There are also sections with articles to read, including publications from prior Army of Women-supported studies, and links to videos written by Dr. Susan Love about many aspects of breast cancer.
The leap to health apps has been fun and easy for me, but it may not be for everyone. Although I enjoy technology, I've limited health-related apps to four at this time. There are many that pop up with a search for cancer or health, so I use commonsense about personal information and if they are not useful, or are tedious, they won't make the cut for my busy life.