NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ontario, Canada--Survivors of childhood cancer
may not be completely aware of their disease, their treatments, and
potential late effects of treatment, Cristina M. Checka said at a
conference on long-term complications of childhood cancer, hosted by
Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Ms. Checka, who works with Gail Tomlinson, MD, PhD, at the University
of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said that a previous study had
shown that more than half of survivors tested could not name a late
term effect of their cancer, despite prior exposure to literature
about their disease. A new interactive computer tutorial, developed
at UT Southwestern, aims to improve those knowledge curves.
An Active Medium
"The computer program has a huge advantage over traditional
methods of sharing information with survivors," Ms. Checka said.
"It is an active medium that allows users to select the
direction in which they want to go. Also, users get immediate
feedback, which may encourage them to continue with the program."
The limits of this type of learning experience, she noted, include
the cost of equipment and the need for space in clinics to
accommodate the equipment.
The Texas researchers created the prototype program, known as the ACE
(After the Cancer Experience) Navigator, using Hypercard, a
Macintosh-based system. The programs goals are to educate
survivors about their childhood cancers, help patients recognize
potential survivorship issues, and offer strategies for healthy living.
The ACE Navigator program begins in a doctors office, which
serves as the home page. Users can select from 12 icons for more
information in different areas, including information about their
disease, treatment modalities, and late-term effects such as
fertility issues and potential risks to offspring.
The Ace Navigator is designed to make use of color, sound, cartoon
drawings, and some video areas, such as a display of how a germ is
destroyed by a white blood cell. At every step, the user may advance
to a new area only after answering a question correctly.
"We believe we can educate adolescents and adults alike with
this program," Ms. Checka said. "We want cancer survivors
to be familiar with the procedures they had as children and help them
stay healthy now. We do not expect this program to be available
outside of a clinic setting; it is meant to complement the follow-up
care in the hospital."
Ms. Checka said that the program is currently undergoing beta
testing. The researchers hope to have a version of the program
available within the next 2 years for use in other clinics.