It may be small, but the smartphone is becoming a tremendous asset for the care of cancer survivors by means of specialized apps. The beauty of the apps being developed now is that they target patients in a specific, local geographic area. These programs, always free, may help the patient search for a specific doctor or service, or they may help a young cancer survivor who wants to be more physically fit or who wants to get together with peers nearby.

Cancer resources: There’s an app for that

The Cancer Resource app from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) describes more than 500 community resources for cancer survivors in north central Alabama. This is a nurse-centric app, developed by oncology nurses from the surrounding geographic area as well as nursing students with an interest in oncology. Caregivers as well as patients will find it useful.

Funding and support for the app came from the Women’s Breast Health Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, as part of an effort to improve quality of life for breast cancer survivors and their loved ones. The leader of the project is Debbie Walker, DNP, assistant professor in UAB’s School of Nursing. Walker noted that although the developers originally designed the app for patients with breast cancer, it touches on issues important to patients with other types of cancer as well. Many of the listings apply to a number of different cancers, and can benefit any patient who needs to find resources such as support groups, shops where one can buy prosthetics or wigs, or even learning centers that accept children who are dealing with or recovering from cancer.

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Providers and patients can use the app to search for resources by type, target audience, and counties served. Address and phone number are provided for each resource, as well as an interactive map and web site if available. Some of the app’s features enable the user to:

  • Search individually by service, county, or target audience, or search all three categories at once
  • Review more than 500 resources at once
  • Save resources to a list within the app, which can then be emailed
  • Save resources to a personal list of favorites

Looking forward The Susan G. Komen Foundation’s 2011 Breast Health Community Assessment revealed the need for easily accessible community resources for cancer patients and providers throughout North Central Alabama. The app’s developers plan to expand the app to include other counties in Alabama, and eventually extend it beyond the state.

“It’s a huge bonus that the app can help cancer patients in the five-county area,” said Walker, who has been an oncology nurse practitioner for the past 15 years. “I hope the app provides patients with a feeling of control over their circumstance.”

App moves childhood cancer survivors

More than 45,000 cancer deaths were averted from 1975 through 2010, thanks to improvements in the treatment of childhood cancer among children and adolescents.1 These survivors comprise a population for whom physical activity is vitally important, since many adult survivors of childhood cancers are at risk for early CVD due to treatment effects that might occur later in life. 2 Although physical activity may help reduce this risk, it is not so easy. A report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study finds that adult survivors of childhood cancers may not meet the federally established guidelines for physical activity.3

A behavioral scientist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Katie Devine, PhD, received a Career Development Grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to address this concern. In prior work with teens who had cancer, Devine knew that the young survivors found physical activity difficult. They were not as active as their precancer selves. They had trouble keeping up with their peers.