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HEALTH & WELLBEING

Mobile Helpers – Can Apps Support Cancer Prevention And Therapy?

Cancer mobile app

The market for apps on cancer is still manageable. However, if you look at the general development of mobile health applications, it is clear: When it comes to cancer, the trend is towards digital applications – especially in the area of ​​prevention and health promotion  There are already some apps that are supposed to support cancer prevention and therapy.

Important: Pay attention to trustworthy providers

Before considering installing or buying an app, you should first make sure that it is a trustworthy provider with quality-assured information. The provider must be given in the form of name and address as well as details for direct contact in the imprint. Often the financial background is not given, since the providers of health apps do not currently have to openly disclose their sources of funding. It is therefore difficult to understand what interests the app is guided by. In particular, you should make sure that the app is neutral, i.e. that no specific products are advertised or that the content is not colored commercially. It is also an advantage if the app has been certified or has a trustworthy seal. In this case, the evaluation criteria of such a seal should also be presented transparently.

In any case, it should be ensured that no unauthorized outside parties have access to the medical data. This can only be assessed if the app has a data protection declaration that provides information on data usage – preferably in German – which, unfortunately, is often not the case: As a study by the Federal Ministry of Health from 2016 found, health apps keep the data protection requirements are often not met. It is also important to know: If the data is stored abroad, use is not subject to German data protection law. An easy-to-find data protection declaration that provides information about the type, scope and purpose of the data collected and indicates where the data is stored, whether there is a possibility of revocation and whether the data may be passed on to third parties belongs to a trustworthy health app. The rating by other users, the so-called ‘star ratings’, does not provide orientation, however. A high-quality app also does not provide a conclusive diagnosis with treatment recommendations derived from it, as the risk of misdiagnosis can have fatal consequences. Although it supports the therapy, it does not replace an assessment by a doctor! Apps that claim the same should be avoided as quickly as possible.  A high-quality app also does not provide a conclusive diagnosis with treatment recommendations derived from it, as the risk of misdiagnosis can have fatal consequences. Although it supports the therapy, it does not replace an assessment by a doctor! Apps that claim the same should be avoided as quickly as possible. A high-quality app also does not provide a conclusive diagnosis with treatment recommendations derived from it, as the risk of misdiagnosis can have fatal consequences. Although it supports the therapy, it does not replace an assessment by a doctor! Apps that claim the same should be avoided as quickly as possible.

Support with cancer screening

When it comes to cancer, the most common mobile applications are to support cancer prevention. For example, in the “Breast Self-Examination” app, illustrated instructions explain how to scan the breast for a monthly self-examination. For the prevention of skin cancer there is the “UV-Check” app, which offers a lot of information and the possibility of calculating the skin’s self-protection time. In addition, skin damage and skin changes can be documented photographically. The free UV check (sponsored by LEO Pharma) was jointly developed by the German Aerospace Center and the Professional Association of German Dermatologists.

However, caution is advised with apps that promise to assess the risk of skin cancer in the event of specific skin discoloration or changes in skin spots. These apps (e.g. Skinvision) are usually based on an image database that compares the photographed user image with the photos in the database. The skin cancer risk is then calculated based on the existing similarities. However, this does not always work reliably. Doctors therefore warn against relying only on the app evaluation. A doctor should always be consulted with suspicious skin changes.

Apps for calculating the individual cancer risk

There are also apps for other types of cancer that use various factors such as lifestyle, family illnesses or predispositions, symptoms and one’s own state of health to calculate the risk of illness, for example “My Cancer Risk” or “Cancer Spotter”. They often come from commercial providers and are not always based on the latest scientific findings. There is also the risk that users may worry unnecessarily if they get apparently negative results that they cannot even discuss with a doctor right away.

Apps to improve the quality of life of cancer patients

Apps that aim to improve the quality of life of cancer patients are less problematic. “Sport against Cancer”, for example, gives cancer patients tips and instructions on how they can promote their well-being through sport and exercise during and after cancer treatment. The cancer app “movival – active against cancer” goes in a similar direction. Movement is intended to reduce the risk of relapse (the full version, which is free of advertising, is, however, associated with a paid subscription).

Since a considerable number of tumor patients suffer from malnutrition and a healthy diet promotes well-being, the Munich Tumor Center offers “Recipes for patients with cancer” as a mobile application (title: HealthFood). Each recipe has information on ingredients and / or disease-specific aspects.  Of course, you don’t need an app to cook or exercise. But the smartphone program helps some people to stay in line. In addition, patients can receive instructions tailored to their impairment and thus do something for the recovery process themselves.

Support with symptom control and medication intake

Numerous apps have now been developed to support patients with taking their medication. Like an alarm clock, they remind the patient to take them at set times. The “MyTherapy” application (which has already been evaluated in everyday clinical practice) combines this function with a symptom diary. These records can in turn be of great help in discussions with a doctor. “Medisafe” provides patients with multiple myeloma with a digital solution to help them document and monitor their medication intake. This includes the automatic creation of the dosage plan, medication reminders, motivational messages and multimedia learning content. As with all apps, the following also applies here: With sensitive data, particular attention must be paid to data protection.

Advice and help in life

The “Magic Tree” app is specially designed for children whose mothers have breast cancer. Terms related to breast cancer treatment and the treatment process are explained here: The center of the app is the magic tree, which can be decorated with jewelry obtained by watching an information film or playing a game. Information is conveyed in a child-friendly manner, and there are small games for relaxation and distraction. Parents and children can determine for themselves how much information they consume, when and where. In addition to answers for children, the app is also a guide for parents, which makes it easier to provide information about cancer. The application is aimed at children between three and ten years of age. “With the app we tried together with various experts to summarize the relevant content that, from our point of view, should be considered on such an important topic, ”says Prof. Dr. Christian Jackisch, chief physician of the women’s clinic at the Sana Klinikum Offenbach and chairman of the board of the association “Help for children with cancer parents eV”.  Advice and information for people suffering from cancer and their families, especially in Thuringia, is offered by the “KrebsApp Thuringia”, initiated by the “Women self-help after cancer”.

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