Study Assesses Web-Based Support Tool for Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Carolyn Y. Fang, PhD, author on the study and professor and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase.
Carolyn Y. Fang, PhD, author on the study and professor and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase.

PHILADELPHIA (March 17, 2021)—In a recent study, researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center assessed head and neck cancer patients’ satisfaction with the use of a web-based tool designed to provide information and strategies for managing symptom-focused concerns.

“The treatment for head and neck cancer can be very difficult, especially for those patients undergoing radiation treatment. Many symptoms and side effects continue even after treatment is completed. After meeting with clinicians here at Fox Chase, it was believed that we could develop a program to help patients address symptoms in a manner that was acceptable to them,” said Carolyn Y. Fang, PhD, author on the study and professor and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase.

The prototype tool, My Journey Ahead, is a web-based program that can be easily accessed by patients at home and provides information on coping with side effects of head and neck cancer treatment. In the first phase of the study, five patients who completed treatment within the last year were shown the program and asked for feedback. Fang said initial feedback showed patients sought a wider scope of information and, specifically, more information on eating and health.

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“Many reviewers were very interested in strategies for how they can maintain their health after treatment. We went back and expanded the program in the ways they described and that’s how we ended up with what is My Journey Ahead,” said Fang, who conducted the study with several other Fox Chase researchers.

Researchers then recruited 55 additional patients to evaluate the program in the second phase. Patients assessed measures of psychological distress, self-efficacy in coping with cancer-related issues, and satisfaction with the website.

“We found that the patients who evaluated it liked the program. They found it easy to use and said that the information was understandable and accessible,” said Fang. “We were really pleased to see that the patients enjoyed the program and found it helpful overall.”

Fang said the development of this program is the first step toward providing easily accessible health information to patients who may have fewer in-person appointments as their treatment finishes.

“This was a fairly small study. Ideally, we will take the information we learned, refine it, and make this program available on a broader basis. The goal is for patients who are receiving radiation treatment for their head and neck cancer to have access to this program and use it to help them during their journey through treatment,” said Fang.

The study, “Development of a Web-Based Supportive Care Program for Patients With Head and Neck Cancer,” was published in Frontiers in Oncology.

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence six consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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