Text messages to help cancer patients counter chemo side effects

Men with advanced stages of prostate cancer now have access to a new text messaging program to help them with the side effects of chemotherapy, according to an article from mHIMSS.

Developed by New York-based mHealth solutions provider Mobile Commons, in partnership with pharmaceutical company Sanofi US and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, PROST8CARE delivers information to cancer patients via one-way text messages on a range of health issues including dealing with side effects from chemo to food and diet tips. 

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, with 1 in 6 facing a prostate cancer diagnosis in his lifetime and 241,740 new cases reported in 2012. Chemotherapy is sometimes used if prostate cancer has spread outside the prostate gland and hormone therapy isn't working.

The text messaging program's content was designed by Mobile Commons in consultation with a board of four medical oncologists and four oncology nurses through the Prostate Cancer Foundation. The timing and content of  PROST8CARE's text messages are tailored to a patient's treatment cycle.

Doctors give chemotherapy in cycles, with each period of treatment followed by a rest period to allow the body time to recover. Each cycle typically lasts for a few weeks.

"The goal of PROST8CARE is to encourage patients and educate them, and facilitate productive conversations with their physicians throughout the course of their treatment," said Jed Alpert, CEO and co-founder of Mobile Commons in an announcement. "And because 95 percent of Americans with chronic diseases have access to texting, this may be an effective way to reach these patients."

In October 2012, the McKesson Foundation announced it awarded a research grant to the Center for Connected Health in Boston, a division of Partners HealthCare, to develop a text messaging program to improve pain management in cancer patients. The study will use text messaging and interactive voice response technology to collect self-reported pain assessments, monitor the impact of pain on patients' daily lives, and provide tailored, multi-dimensional and supportive feedback.

To learn more:
- read the mHIMSS article
- read the announcement