How a simple tech tool can help cancer patients live longer

Doctors often don’t hear about the serious side effects of chemotherapy because patients are reluctant to complain or don’t have enough time to talk about such problems during jam-packed office visits, experts say.

But a new study points to a potential solution: using simple technology to encourage “real time” reporting of symptoms. Its findings show that patients with advanced cancer who reported side effects frequently via an online tool lived a median of five months longer than those who waited to mention problems during office visits.

Lead study author Ethan Basch, an oncologist at Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, acknowledges that a five-month improvement might sound modest. But, he notes, it is a greater benefit than what’s provided by many targeted drugs for metastatic cancer.

Results of Basch’s randomized, controlled trial were published Sunday morning in JAMA and will be presented at the plenary session of the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago. Only four studies, thought to have the greatest potential to affect patient care, are being highlighted at that session.

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