BUFFALO, NY--When young cancer patients have a question about their illness, they need an educator who has time and patience, and can talk to them in language they can understand.
The Pediatric Multimedia Project (PMP), a new interactive computer program developed by researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, is providing just such personalized cancer information to young patients and their families.
"Although a wealth of information is available for cancer patients, it's useful only if they know how to properly access, correctly interpret, and effectively personalize it," said Michael A. Zevon, PhD, chairman of the Department of Psychology at Roswell Park, who helped develop the program.
Dr. Zevon and his Roswell Park colleagues demonstrated the PMP at the 4th International Conference on Long-Term Complications of Treatment of Children and Adolescents for Cancer, co-sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb Oncology and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
"Young cancer patients and their families are typically forced to learn within a classroom in crisis, the least desirable situation for processing new information," Dr. Zevon said. The PMP allows a more relaxed learning atmosphere. It engages the user by integrating audio, text, video, graphics, and animation, and provides individualized, on-demand information.
A family with a child newly diagnosed with cancer, for example, will be able to look up other families whose children are receiving treatment at Roswell Park. The family can watch and listen as others describe their thoughts on effective coping. Selecting from a menu of specific topics, the family can view a presentation of the same family discussing the selected topic. The family will have the option of making personal contact with the "computer" family.
If a family wants information on blood counts, the PMP illustrates the various blood components, explains their functions, defines counts, and provides a printed guide to understanding the information about the importance of the child's hematologic status during cancer treatment.