How apps are helping kids and families cope with cancer

A growing number of apps are designed to help kids and families deal with cancer.

[pi_aside post_id=”73753″ class=”red-article-aside” alignment=”right”]After Louise Sipos’ 11-month-old son Gabe was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, she tried to put him more at ease by dressing a stuffed toy duck in hospital clothes and having it get pretend “treatment” from doctors.

That helped Gabe—now a cancer survivor—feel safe when he was going through treatment, and it inspired Sipos to start a nonprofit called Gabe’s My Heart, which supports children and families living with cancer. Since then, the toy ducks have been a hit with children across the country. And with apps becoming hugely popular over the years, Sipos began to see the potential an app might have for helping kids and families coping with pediatric cancer.

“There are great [cancer] apps out there meant for doctor visits and adults, but they’re very clinical,” Sipos says. “We wanted to speak to children where they are.”

That was the inspiration behind Chemo Duck, which keeps children entertained, informed and more at ease while waiting for clinic visits or during overnight stays.

Chemo Duck is among a growing number of apps designed to help kids and families deal with cancer or even help detect signs of the disease.

Knowledge through gaming

With Re-Mission 2: Nanobot’s Revenge (Android™ and iOS), you play the role of a microscopic robot battling evil cancer cells inside the human body. Players shoot chemo blobs at menacing leukemia cells. Young cancer patients collaborated with app developer HopeLab to build something that’s both fun and empowering: It teaches children about how cancer works while speaking in language kids can understand. (“You totally kicked Nuclear Tyrant’s butt!”)

Connecting peers facing similar challenges

[pi_aside post_id=”73754″ class=”red-article-aside” alignment=”right”]Matthew Zachary, a cancer survivor himself, believes it’s important for patients to be able to connect with others in their shoes. And one way more young people are communicating is through mobile tech.

“It’s the way of my generation: we communicate less online and more on mobile,” says Zachary, who founded Stupid Cancer, a nonprofit that supports young adults with cancer. Stupid Cancer recently released Instapeer (Android and iOS), an anonymous messaging app for teenage and young adult oncology patients to befriend each other, sharing their experience with others who can relate.

“The app is giving us an interesting crow’s nest for potential ways to serve the next generation of patients,” Zachary says.

Helping parents stay informed

If you’re having trouble following what’s happening inside your child’s body, you’re not alone.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly half of all American adults have difficulty understanding health information. Authoritative medical reference apps can be useful resources during treatment and remission when medical terms are confusing.

One such app is Medscape (Android and iOS), a reference app used by healthcare professionals. The most useful feature: It works offline, so you can check drug interactions or look up what your child’s next procedure entails whenever you need to. Another is Simply Sayin’™ (Android), an app that helps children understand complex medical terms using simple explanations and pictures.

Taking charge of treatment

Make the most of each visit to the doctor with Pocket Cancer Care Guide (iOS), developed by the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. The app helps parents put together a list of suggested questions to ask your child’s doctor so you can understand their treatment.

With CancerCare by CureSearch (Android and iOS), you can also record appointments, treatments, mood, side effects, blood counts and medical info.

Helping to detect cancer

A white pupil seen in photos of children could simply be a camera effect similar to red-eye. But sometimes it can be a sign of serious eye diseases, such as retinoblastoma—a form of eye cancer. The White Eye Detector (Android and iOS) app searches your camera roll for photos showing white-eye. It also gives full reports for the findings and helps with further research on automated white-eye detection.

Dr. Bryan Shaw, professor of chemistry at Baylor University, developed the app after his four-month-old son was diagnosed with retinoblastoma. It’s proven its worth so far.

“The free app has been out less than a year and is credited with initiating two early diagnoses of retinoblastoma in small children, as well as other eye diseases that present with white pupillary reflexes,” Shaw says.

And if you’re wondering about an unusual mark on your child’s skin, Doctor Mole (Android, iOS and Windows) works with your smartphone camera to help analyze suspicious moles you photograph. Although you should still visit a dermatologist, the app will at least give you instant feedback.
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This content was created by an author contracted by Verizon Wireless to provide helpful information on mobile technology. The thoughts, opinions and suggestions of the author may not necessarily reflect those of Verizon Wireless.