CancerStories has launched the world’s first eHealth app designed specifically to support cancer patients and their families by providing access to more than 500 real-world videos of people dealing with their diagnosis as well as testimonials from long-term cancer survivors.

Cancer is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with a higher mortality rate than TB, Malaria and AIDS combined. According to CANSA, more than 100,000 South Africans are diagnosed with cancer every year, and one in four South Africans is affected by cancer through diagnosis of family, friends or self.

The CancerStories project is led by Dr Alex Mitchell from the University of Leicester’s Department of Cancer Studies and is hosted by CancerStories Ltd, a not-for-profit organisation. The iOS app uses a peer support model that includes patients’ accounts of their own inspirational journeys. The content is available 24/7 and has been evaluated by staff and patients in Leicestershire hospitals.

CancerStories was designed to be used directly by patients as well as a tool for clinicians to provide patients and families with relatable first-hand accounts of how real patients coped with their cancer diagnosis and how they are living with the condition.

“Our aim was to offer something therapeutic for everyone affected by cancer and not rely on a referral to a hospital specialist – which is not always available – for emotional complications,” said Dr Mitchell.

The eHealth resource relied on volunteers and the input of patients and family members who consented to share their story for the benefit of others.

“Initial evaluation with a panel of 100 patients found CancerStories beneficial in reducing isolation and anxiety, promoting independence and inspiring patients to help others. 8 out of 10 who watched CancerStories said they could cope better with their own cancer,” explained Dr Mitchell.

A breast cancer patient and a volunteer with the programme, Julie Charlish, said that: “Through my involvement with the CancerStories project I found out just how valuable online video support cancer can be, as a direct source of help, with tips on coping with many types of cancer. I found that by helping others it has enabled me to move forward with my life. The experience has strengthened my belief in peer support mechanisms, they really do work.”

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