People with prostate cancer may soon have an interactive app to help them decide among treatment options for their cancer, and to make better informed decisions.
The software was developed by Michael A. Diefenbach, PhD, and a team of researchers at Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. Diefenbach previewed the app at the Institute’s recent Centricity Series Symposia, in a presentation titled “Promoting Patient Decision Making in the Medical Context: Developing a New Paradigm.”
The software is designed to help prostate cancer patients navigate and understand their options — and potential outcomes — when choosing among likely treatments. The app includes several approaches, from surgery or radiation to active surveillance (also known as watchful waiting), and details each treatment’s potential side effects, which can include incontinence and sexual impotence.
Downloadable to a mobile phone, a tablet, or computer — whether a PC or Mac — the app uses prompts to lead the patient through the decision process. If a treatment approach is chosen, the app then prompts the patient to agree or disagree on a series of questions.
Based on stated preferences, the software’s algorithm selects specific treatment options that a patient can then take to a physician to discuss.
“Making treatment decisions can be daunting with any type of cancer, but it can be particularly difficult for men dealing with prostate cancer as it has a big impact on very basic everyday physical functions,” Diefenbach, the director of Behavioral Research at Feinstein and a professor in the Department of Medicine and Urology at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, said in a press release. “My goal … is to show the benefit of incorporating modern technology into research and treatment options, as well as making health care professionals aware that this tool has the potential to successfully guide patients through their cancer treatment.”
A usability study, supported by the American Cancer Society, showed that the app is user-friendly and of assistance in identifying patient preferences before a person talks with a physician.
The researchers are planning to test the app in a clinical trial to determine the its usability and helpfulness in a clinical setting.