Temple and Fox Chase developing interactive program to assist prostate cancer patients

When a man is first diagnosed with prostate cancer, the initial visit to the doctor becomes a blur. Complex decisions about treatment now face the patient, yet formulating adequate questions is often difficult. Further clouding the picture is the tendancy of some physicians to only recommend treatment options in which they specialize.

To empower patients facing these difficult and complex decisions, Temple University's College of Engineering and the Fox Chase Cancer Center (FCCC), armed with a joint two-year, $200,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute, are developing an interactive, computer-based program to provide comprehensive information to men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The program, called Prostate Interactive Educational System (PIES), will present relevant disease and treatment information that is tailored to the patient's information seeking preference.

The program is being designed by Dr. Brian Butz, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Temple, and Dr. Michael A. Diefenbach, health psychologist and associate member of the division of population science at FCCC.

"There is a need for patient information, particularly with prostate cancer, because the patient has the option of several treatment methods such as surgery, radiation or seed implantation," says Diefenbach. "There are several equivalent treatment options, all of which can potentially have a significant impact on the quality of life of the patient."

The program will use an interactive expert system that was previously developed by Butz for use as a tutorial program for electrical and computer engineering students. That system is presently in beta testing at about a half-dozen colleges and universities.

The PIES program will be modeled as a "virtual" health center consisting of a number of rooms, including a reception area, physician offices, consultation rooms, a library, and a group meeting room.

Contact: Preston M. Moretz
Temple University

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