How Alexa Can Help With Cancer Questions

December 25, 2020
Bonnie Annis
Bonnie Annis

Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.

How an app supported by Alexa has helped me answer cancer questions.

Several months ago, I received an Echo Dot from my youngest daughter. She assured me I’d love it. I’d heard of the voice-controlled appliance but had never used one. I’d recently mastered commanding Siri on my smart TV and iPhone, so I was anxious to try it. I assumed Alexa, the wizard of the Dot, would be just as congenial and willing to obey my every command as Siri had been.

It was fun asking Alexa to turn on the Meditation Station or to turn off the lamp in the living room using a smart plug. I also enjoyed using the Dot for quickly accessing recipes or finding out the day’s weather. I kept the little round speaker waiting at the ready on the middle of my desk, it was fun to think of things to ask Alexa to do.

A few days later, when I received an email from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America informing me of a new Alexa powered app, I was intrigued. The email explained the program was developed to help those with cancer questions. I’d never thought of asking Alexa about anything cancer-related. I assumed she was programmed to obey simple commands. I didn’t expect much from her, but as I read about the newly created Cancer Center, powered by Alexa, I was very interested.

The email gave clear instructions on downloading the program. After following them, I decided to give it a try, but instead of asking questions I already knew answers to, I decided to ask questions as if I’d been newly diagnosed.

One of the first commands I gave Alexa through this new skill app, Cancer Center, was, “Alexa, what is invasive breast cancer?”

Within a few seconds, Alexa was giving a detailed description of invasive, or infiltrating cancer. When the information was complete, I was informed I could say “patient advocate” at any time during the conversation and have the ability of connecting with a human being. Of course, Alexa offered a disclaimer for the cancer center stating the information offered by the app was not intended to replace the skilled advice of a medical professional.

Cancer Center was developed by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, where I receive medical care. Although it encourages patients to entrust their care to that specific facility, I thought it would be a great help to anyone needing general information about cancer.

Through simple commands like "Alexa, how do you diagnose ovarian cancer?" or "Alexa, what surgical options are available to treat breast cancer?" An interested party could receive quick information.

I found the Cancer Center app worked best when using simple phrases such as “Alexa, give me treatment options for cancer.” When asking a more detailed question, the app picked up on general cancer related terms and responded with an answer it thought appropriate.

Today, we’re blessed with access to technology like the Cancer Center app on multiple devices, especially when many are unable to obtain in-person visits with physicians due to COVID-19.

I’m grateful medical centers are realizing those affected by cancer want and need information. By offering applications like this, patients can ask questions at any time or place using an Alexa empowered device.

If you’re interested in the App, visit Cancer Treatment Centers of America and follow the instructions for download.

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