A health literacy smart phone app has been developed to help people at risk of breast cancer better understand the condition, after a major study found the vast majority of information about the illness on the web is inaccurate.
The National Adult Literacy Agency and University College Cork have developed the vital public service system in response to research by Cork University Hospital into the potentially fatal illness.
As part of an examination of what information is available on breast cancer to the general population, experts from CUH’s oncology unit found that as much as 90% of advice and details on the condition available on the internet is either inaccurate or almost impossible to read.
Coupled with the fact previous research has found one in three women attending breast cancer clinics in Ireland have limited health literacy, the team said the sketchy information is putting patients at needless increased risk.
And in a bid to lessen the damage incorrect advice could cause, they have set up the FYI: Breast Cancer smart phone app to help answer the internet’s top 50 most searched for questions on the illness, which is increasingly the subject of breakthrough medical treatments.
The app answers each question in plain English, outlining what the different types of breast cancer are, what causes them, and the treatments available.
It was developed by NALA and UCC’s department of computer science and school of nursing and midwifery through funding from CUH’s fundraising wing the CUH Charity, and is free to download from the app store, on both Android and iPhone devices.
“More and more, we see that patients attending a breast cancer clinic are using the internet for information.
“With 90% of patients using a mobile phone on a daily basis, we decided that an app would be the best way to communicate correct, easy-to-read information,” said CUH consultant breast surgeon Mark Corrigan.
“We hope that it will make a major difference to the hundreds of women attending breast cancer clinics who find themselves overwhelmed by the medical information they are given,” he said.
CUH Charity chairman Prof Michael Molloy said he was “thrilled” the app is now available as it will help to put women at ease over what they might be facing.
“It is very much thanks to our very generous supporters that we have been able to create this. We are looking at raising funds to create other similar informative apps, having seen the difference this app is making,” he said.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in Ireland, behind skin cancer. Every year, approximately 2,600 women in this country are told they have the condition, with 660 subsequently dying.
One in every 10 women will develop breast cancer at some stage in their lives. However, significant progress is being made in tackling the illness.
Depending on how quickly it is identified, among the options available to someone who has developed the illness are targeted surgery, chemotherapy or in some cases mastectomies and reconstructive surgery.
Information is available at www.cancer.ie or the Irish Cancer Society helpline on 1800-200-700 between 9am and 7pm, Monday to Thursday, and 9am to 5pm, Friday.
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