Can Fitness Trackers Improve Health in Cancer Survivors?

Experts are exploring whether wearable fitness trackers can improve health during and after cancer treatment.
BY JEANNETTE MONINGER
PUBLISHED: AUGUST 02, 2017
I was able to be more active as the
medications took effect, and I got
a better handle on the pain. ” <br>
— THUY TRUONG <br> PHOTO BY NATALIE MOSER
"I was able to be more active as the medications took effect, and I got a better handle on the pain. ”
— THUY TRUONG
PHOTO BY NATALIE MOSER
Los Angeles resident Thuy Truong purchased her first wearable fitness tracking device in May 2016, with plans to monitor her steps and sleep patterns during weekly hikes and campouts. She couldn’t anticipate how helpful the device would become four months later when she was diagnosed at age 31 with stage 4 lung cancer.

While taking targeted therapy drugs to slow the cancer’s growth and dealing with back pain caused by the cancer’s spread, Truong watched her activity level plummet from 20,000 steps during hikes, to 10,000 average daily steps, to less than 1,000 steps a day.

Undaunted, Truong continued to monitor her fitness. “I was able to be more active as the medications took effect, and I got a better handle on the pain,” she says. Truong used the fitness tracker to gauge how her health was improving. “When the device showed that I could manage 1,000 steps a day, I challenged myself to walk a little farther,” she says. Gradually, Truong worked her way up to 10,000 daily steps and is now back to doing longer hikes.

TAKING STEPS TO CUSTOMIZE CANCER TREATMENTS

Nearly half of Americans own a wearable fitness tracker, or wearable, according to a 2016 PricewaterhouseCoopers consumer survey. Depending on the device, a wearable can monitor your activity level, sleep patterns, heart rate and diet (you log what you eat, and it calculates your calories burned).

Wearables haven’t been around for long. A couple of devices for the wrist emerged in 2012, with the first of that type introduced by Fitbit in 2013; the first Apple smartwatch went on the market in 2015. (Of course, the basic step-tracking pedometer has been around for much longer.) Already, researchers are studying whether wearables can improve the health of people with cancer and lower the risk of cancer recurrence.

Jorge Nieva, M.D., a lung, head and neck cancer specialist at the University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles, is co-leading a study called Analytical Technologies to Objectively Measure Human Performance (ATOMHP). Nieva and his fellow researchers are currently analyzing data from the study to determine whether information from certain technology, such as wearables and smartphone apps, can help doctors better tailor cancer treatments to patients.


Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
x-button
 
CURE wants to hear from you! We are inviting you to Share Your Story with the readers of CURE. Submit your personal experience with cancer by visiting Share Your Story
 
Not yet receiving CURE in your mailbox? Sign up to receive CURE Magazine by visiting GetCureNow.com
x
//For side ad protocol