Cancer Symptoms? There's an App for That

CUREGU Special Issue
Volume 1
Issue 1

Cancergraph, a smartphone app, helps patients track their symptoms and report them to doctors.

MONITORING YOUR HEALTH WHEN you have cancer? Yeah, there's an app for that.

While your doctors may have asked you to record your symptoms in a health diary, that can become labor-intensive when your illness and treatment are already demanding time and concentration.

Enter Cancergraph, the brainchild of Malecare, a nonprofit men’s cancer survivor advocacy and support organization. One of many free apps available to help patients with cancer to track their treatments and health, its goal is to make it easy to use smartphones to record symptoms, side effects or emotional issues, even at the worst times.

Patients can even snap a photo of a rash and be sure it won’t get shared with their vacation photos. The app turns the information into graphs that show how symptoms vary over time.

Cancergraph works not just for patients with cancer of the prostate, but also for those with any form of the disease, and is available for iPhone and Android devices. So far, it’s been translated into Italian, Spanish, Chinese and French.

Sharing specific symptom information with doctors can lead to more precise treatment dosages and even offer the real-time opportunity to save lives. For example, if a patient is throwing up repeatedly, Cancergraph sends a message to a doctor or caregiver, who can then communicate with the patient through the app. An upcoming version will allow doctors to design a more automated set of alerts for common symptoms, streamlining patient management.

In addition, Cancergraph posts are showing up in online health-related social networks, where patients use the information to compare their experiences. “There are a lot of opportunities to understand the progression of disease relative to treatment, as well as for the patient to understand what’s going on and protect themselves,” says Malecare Founder and Executive Director Darryl Mitteldorf, LCSW.

The app is being used in two clinical trials to collect anonymous data, but Mitteldorf also hopes it will increase clinical trial participation.

In his experience, the emotional and bureaucratic hurdles for clinical trial enrollment are significant enough that patients who get rejected the first time often don’t try again. Cancergraph can match patients' profiles — including geographic location and medical history — to a clinical trials database and alert them when relevant studies open up. Once a patient opts in to this feature, he doesn’t have to do anything else — trial information will be delivered electronically.