Houston Methodist uses new app to connect clinicians, breast cancer survivors

A pilot study at Houston Methodist connected breast cancer survivors with clinicians to promote health improvements after the patients ended treatment.

Researchers from Houston Methodist created a smartphone app to help the hospital's providers support breast cancer patients after their treatment. Through the app, breast cancer survivors can input health data, such as logging daily meals, and interact with physicians and clinical dietitians who provide guidance to reinforce healthy choices between hospital appointments.

Studies have shown less than 35 percent of breast cancer survivors follow recommended levels of physical activity, according to a news release from Houston Methodist. This is concerning for providers, since there's growing evidence that weight gain is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer mortality.

"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," said Tejal Patel, MD, co-senior author and breast medical oncologist at Houston Methodist Cancer Center. "The mobile application provides a link to the physician's office so that real-time changes can be made."

In a pilot rollout, breast cancer survivors using the app consistently lost weight, according to study results published in JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics. Of the 33 patients enrolled, 56 percent lost an average of 3.5 pounds.

Houston Methodist said it plans to offer the app, which is currently only accessible to study participants, on Apple's App Store and the Google Play store in the future. The research team also plans to broaden the app's focus to include other long-term behavioral changes that are pertinent to cancer survivors, outside of weight loss.

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