Nav: Home

App helps breast cancer survivors improve health after treatment

November 30, 2018

Breast cancer survivors who used a smartphone app created at Houston Methodist consistently lost weight, largely due to daily, real-time interactions with their health care team via the mobile app. Few clinically-tested mobile apps exist today with clear measurable goals to support continued care of cancer survivors and patients.

There is increasing evidence that reducing obesity also reduces the risk of cancer recurrence and the frequency of hospital readmission. A meta-analysis of 82 studies evaluating the relationship between body weight and breast cancer in more than 213,000 women found a 35 percent increase in breast cancer mortality.

A Nov. 30 paper in JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics focused on the benefits of using the Methodist Hospital Cancer Health Application specifically designed for breast cancer survivors to interact with their clinical dietitian and reinforce healthier lifestyle choices, especially between appointments.

Of the 33 breast cancer survivors enrolled, 25 women actively used the app over a four-week period. During this pilot study, 56 percent of enrolled patients lost an average of 3.5 pounds. Also, the more the study participants used the app, the more likely they were to lose weight.

"Some breast cancer medications slow down metabolism, but one of the biggest hurdles for a survivor is finding the support needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle," said Tejal A. Patel, M.D., co-senior author and breast medical oncologist at Houston Methodist Cancer Center. "We tell our patients that losing weight reduces the risk of cancer recurrence, but don't usually provide them with structured tools to achieve and maintain this weight loss. The mobile application provides a link to the physician's office so that real-time changes can be made."

Unlike popular consumer health apps, the Houston Methodist app incorporated a clinical dietitian who actively communicated with patients and provided direct feedback and guidance. For example, if a breast cancer survivor logged her daily meals, the nutritionist reviewed it and made comments and suggestions in real time.

Studies show that fewer than 35 percent of all breast cancer survivors follow recommended levels of physical activity. Stephen T.C. Wong, Ph.D., P.E., chair and professor of the Department of Systems Medicine and Bioengineering at Houston Methodist Research Institute, and his informatics development team helped create the mobile application as a way for Houston Methodist health care providers to actively support their patients after treatment and to provide continued care beyond hospital walls.

"We are a mobile society, so digital innovations like smartphone health care apps must be made in a way that empower our patients and deliver patient-centric care," said Wong, co-senior author on the paper. "More than 90 percent of the study patients found our app easy to navigate, and they wanted to use it daily for real-time feedback and support. The app helped breast cancer patients change daily behaviors and successfully meet their personal goals."

Houston Methodist dietician Renee Stubbins said the mobile health app allowed her to interact with more patients in one day than she normally would in person, something she believes can be adapted by other registered dietitians and health care providers. Not only did she provide recommendations for diet and exercise, but she also motivated the study participants to provide virtual support to each other.

"Maintaining a healthy weight is difficult enough for the average person, let alone for those who've survived breast cancer, so being able to empower and support these women made a difference," said Stubbins, one of the paper's co-first authors.

The app is currently accessible to study patients, but the goal is to widely offer this mobile application on the App Store and Google Play. Houston Methodist will broaden the use of this app in multi-center studies and focus on long-term behavioral changes to reduce health issues most common in cancer survivors. One study will include active breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or other treatment. A second study will include all cancer survivors and monitor exercise, wellness and diet over a 12-week period.
-end-
JCO CCI is a journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The research was supported in part by the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation and the John S. Dunn Research Foundation.

For more information about Houston Methodist, visit houstonmethodist.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information: A behavior-modification, clinical grade mobile application to improve breast cancer survivors' accountability and health outcomes. JCO CCI DOI: 10.1200/CCI.18.00054. (Online Nov. 30, 2018). R. Stubbins, T. He, X. Yu, M. Puppala, C. Ezeana, S. Chen, M. Alvarado, J. Ensor, A. Rodriguez, P. Niravath, J.C. Chang, T. Patel, S.T.C. Wong.

Houston Methodist

Related Breast Cancer Articles:

Does MRI plus mammography improve detection of new breast cancer after breast conservation therapy?
A new article published by JAMA Oncology compares outcomes for combined mammography and MRI or ultrasonography screenings for new breast cancers in women who have previously undergone breast conservation surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer initially diagnosed at 50 or younger.
Blood test offers improved breast cancer detection tool to reduce use of breast biopsy
A Clinical Breast Cancer study demonstrates Videssa Breast can inform better next steps after abnormal mammogram results and potentially reduce biopsies up to 67 percent.
Surgery to remove unaffected breast in early breast cancer increases
The proportion of women in the United States undergoing surgery for early-stage breast cancer who have preventive mastectomy to remove the unaffected breast increased significantly in recent years, particularly among younger women, and varied substantially across states.
Breast cancer patients with dense breast tissue more likely to develop contralateral disease
Breast cancer patients with dense breast tissue have almost a two-fold increased risk of developing disease in the contralateral breast, according to new research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer.
Some early breast cancer patients benefit more from breast conservation than from mastectomy
Breast conserving therapy (BCT) is better than mastectomy for patients with some types of early breast cancer, according to results from the largest study to date, presented at ECC2017.
One-third of breast cancer patients not getting appropriate breast imaging follow-up exam
An annual mammogram is recommended after treatment for breast cancer, but nearly one-third of women diagnosed with breast cancer aren't receiving this follow-up exam, according to new findings presented at the 2016 Annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons.
Low breast density worsens prognosis in breast cancer
Even though dense breast tissue is a risk factor for breast cancer, very low mammographic breast density is associated with a worse prognosis in breast cancer patients.
Is breast conserving therapy or mastectomy better for early breast cancer?
Young women with early breast cancer face a difficult choice about whether to opt for a mastectomy or breast conserving therapy (BCT).
Breast density and outcomes of supplemental breast cancer screening
In a study appearing in the April 26 issue of JAMA, Elizabeth A.
Full dose radiotherapy to whole breast may not be needed in early breast cancer
Five years after breast-conserving surgery, radiotherapy focused around the tumor bed is as good at preventing recurrence as irradiating the whole breast, with fewer side effects, researchers from the UK have found in the large IMPORT LOW trial.

Related Breast Cancer Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#520 A Closer Look at Objectivism
This week we broach the topic of Objectivism. We'll be speaking with Keith Lockitch, senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, about the philosophy of Objectivism as it's taught through Ayn Rand's writings. Then we'll speak with Denise Cummins, cognitive scientist, author and fellow at the Association for Psychological Science, about the impact of Objectivist ideology on society. Related links: This is what happens when you take Ayn Rand seriously Another Critic Who Doesn’t Care What Rand Thought or Why She Thought It, Only That She’s Wrong Quote is from "A Companion to Ayn Rand"