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Cancer is personal. Its treatment should be too.

February 1, 2019 Doris Szentkovics
Cancer is personal. Its treatment should be too.

Patients on tailored digital symptom monitoring programs more likely to stay well for longer.

Live long enough, and you will know someone affected by cancer. It’s a sad truth that the disease causes 1.9 million deaths each year in Europe according to World Health Organisation figures, making it the second most important cause of death and morbidity. On a global scale, cancer accounted for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018 (about 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer).

But cancer isn’t just a health issue, it’s a human issue. WorldcancerDay.org is raising awareness with the launch of “I Am And I Will”, a 3-year campaign, which urges people to reduce the impact of cancer for themselves, the people they love and for the world by making a personal commitment and impact the future.

While nothing can prepare you for cancer, our experience from designing digital patient support programs show that those diagnosed can be better prepared for treatment. Here, data is everything. Not only is every type of cancer different, but so is every patient and it makes sense that personally tailored treatment plans can boost outcomes.

A patient with breast cancer, for example, can work with clinicians to decide on a treatment plan and specify support based on the genomics and stage of breast cancer alongside their personal goals. The treatment plan could include chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and biologics (therapies manufactured in a living system such as a micro-organism, or plant or animal cells).

But how do we know how patients differ over time? We can only answer this question with effective patient symptom monitoring. It helps clinical teams understand how the therapy is progressing and how to expediently support the patient. Digital monitoring tools supporting oncology therapy have been shown to improve both patients’ quality of life and survival.

In one example, 766 cancer patients received chemotherapy for advanced solid tumors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the US. Half were randomly selected to report 12 common symptoms via tablet computers while the other half received the usual care consisting of symptom monitoring at the discretion of clinicians.

Those with home computers received weekly e-mail prompts to report between visits. Treating physicians received symptom printouts at visits, and nurses received e-mail alerts when participants reported severe or worsening symptoms. It was found that just over a third (34%) of the group which received digital information and assistance showed an improved health-related quality of life compared with 18% of the control group. Patients receiving intervention were also less frequently admitted to the ER or hospitalized.

At S3 Connected Health, we are looking at the importance of Data Science to accurately capture data about each patient from inside and outside the clinic, as well as giving patients more control over the course of their treatment. This helps clinicians to have a holistic understanding of how patients are doing at each step of their treatment and encourages better-informed decision-making about the next steps for each patients’ therapy.

Contact us to find out more about how to assess behavioral challenges patients face when it comes to long term treatments and visit https://www.worldcancerday.org/ to find out more about this year’s World Cancer Day.

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