The use of mobile technologies in Radiation Oncology: helping medical care

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Camila Fonseca Carneiro, a third-year medical student at the State University of Amazonas, Amazonia, Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Radiotherapy has always been intrinsically linked to technological development. In 1895, x-rays were discovered by Wilhelm Roentgen and, in 1896, radiotherapy was used to treat breast and stomach cancer and various other inflammatory diseases. From the last century to the present, many technological improvements have been developed in order to increase the accuracy, safety and effectiveness of treatment. From this perspective, the use of mobile applications to calculate irradiation doses, to visualize imaging tests and to facilitate contact with patients is in the process of being tested by oncologist radiotherapists.

In this context, in 2011, the World Health Organization released a book making public the term Mobile Health, which includes mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, digital personal assistants and other wireless equipment. Radiotherapy can use digital applications for the following activities: sending alert messages to a specific group of patients; explaining about the disease; sending reminders about the date of weekly consultations with physicians and multidisciplinary staff; accessing to strategic treatment planning and extra explanations with the aim of limiting radiation effects. The modalities of use of mobile technologies with patients should be carefully examined by physicians depending on the diagnosis, prognosis and, mainly, epidemiological and psychological profile of the patient. It is noteworthy that the support of applications does not dispense the presence of the oncologic team, serving as a punctual measure of assistance to the patient.

On the other hand, the development of applications for the use of radiotherapists has had more concrete acceptance. They range from dose calculators, cancer staging, clinical calculators, creating survival curve, and symptomatological follow-up record during radiation sessions. They can be purchased from the Play Store and App Store. In 2015, Tsang et al launched the RB App, which performs radiobiological calculations. The acceptance rate for two years and nine months after the first test by the public reached 90%. There is also the application called “Routine Radiotherapy App”. Both use the same method of standardized software of hospitals, and the calculation deviations are nonexistent. The main goal of creating additional supports is to save time and provide a dynamic way to record patient evolution.

There are not enough primary studies to prove the effectiveness of the use of mobile technologies in medicine. However, the changes caused by the constant updating of existing softwares and the reach of smartphones in bringing medical knowledge to the lay public are visible. Radiotherapy, inserted in a scope extremely dependent on virtual practices, tends to incorporate the news of mobile technologies quickly. Regardless, it continues to be a clinical specialty, centered on the well-being of the human being in its integrity. Mobile equipment will hardly remove from radiotherapy its face-to-face character in view of the need for human interaction. The advance serves, therefore, as a complement to medical care.

About the author

Camila Fonseca Carneiro is a third-year medical student at the State University of Amazonas, Amazonia, Brazil. She is local officer in the Public Health Committee of IFMSA Brazil. She participates in the Academic League of Pulmonology and Tisiology of Amazonas. She also volunteered in the Regional Electoral Court of Amazonas and in the Vascular Surgery Outpatient Clinic. She is interested in writing, poetry and promoting local campaigns to help people recognize their rights and create their own
beliefs so that a healthy society is built.

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