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Cancer Patients Gain From Reporting Symptoms Online

It's an effective way of connecting with doctors in real time, speeding care, study finds

FRIDAY, Nov. 30, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Having cancer patients report to doctors on their symptoms and side effects online may improve their care, a new study finds.

Even the sickest cancer patients are willing and capable of reporting their symptoms online, says a team from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

"Cancer care has become increasingly complex, causing office visits to become more compressed. This makes it challenging for the clinician to comprehensively assess each patient's symptoms in that brief window of time," study author Dr. Ethan Basch, a medical oncologist, said in a prepared statement.

"Because cancer therapies can be highly toxic, early detection of symptoms and timely treatment is vital. What is exciting to us about online self-reporting is that patients can alert clinicians to crucial symptoms in real time," Basch said.

The study included 107 lung cancer patients receiving outpatient chemotherapy who had access to a secure Internet patient reporting system developed by Basch and his colleagues. The patients were able to access the Symptom Tracking and Reporting (STAR) site using computers in waiting room kiosks and at home to report cancer symptoms and chemotherapy-related side effects.

The patients were followed for up to 16 months and 40 visits. All of the patients used the waiting room kiosks at some or all of their office visits, and an average of 78 percent logged onto the system at any given office visit. Patients were more likely to use STAR if they had prior computer experience.

The study found that 98 percent of patients found STAR easy to use, 90 percent said it was useful, and 77 percent believed it improved the quality of their discussions with clinicians.

The study appears in the Dec. 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about coping with cancer.

SOURCE: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, news release, Nov. 29, 2007
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