Keeping patients in touch with their lives and their treatments

A Welsh hospital is developing the use of a computer touch screen to record and assess details about patients, the side-effects of their treatments and their quality of life, the 3rd European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona hear on Friday 21 March.

Professor Robert Leonard, of the South West Wales Cancer Institute, Singleton Hospital, Swansea, UK, reported that three hundred breast cancer patients who were attending the day treatment area for chemotherapy were asked to fill in a questionnaire on the touch screen during the year 2000. They managed the touch screen themselves and answered 31 questions aimed at assessing how they were coping with their treatment and what their quality of life was like. Questions ranged from do you have any ankle or leg swelling? to have you felt too ill to do your usual activities? to how do you rate your overall health since your last treatment?. Often the patients completed a touch screen questionnaire more than once, with 868 forms completed, made up of 627 women receiving chemotherapy as adjuvant treatment and 241 receiving it for metastatic disease.

Interesting results from the exercise included the fact that there were similar levels of adverse side-effects from the toxic chemotherapy (such as tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting) between women in the two groups. Professor Leonard said: This probably reflects the trend to use more intensive therapy for adjuvant treatments nowadays.

The other main finding was the higher level of side-effects in women over 65 compared to the under 65s. More of the older women suffered more from fatigue, anorexia, weight loss and mouth ulcers.

Prof Leonard said: The touch screen has proved to be a rapid and accurate method for patients to self report the toxicity of their treatment, and their general state of health and well-being. It is quick, patient-friendly and is an extremely powerful, inexpensive technique for recording data f

Contact: Emma Mason
Federation of European Cancer Societies

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