A new app is giving women with ovarian cancer some control back by allowing them to monitor in real time their tumour markers.
Tumour markers are specific substances, usually proteins found in blood, urine, or body tissues that are produced by the body in response to cancer growth. Elevated levels often indicate a recurrence of cancer.
Gynaecological oncologist Professor Andreas Obermair has no doubt the smartphone app, launched by Australian charity Cherish Women's Cancer Foundation, will improve the lives of the 1500 Australian women diagnosed with the deadly disease each year.
"Patients are extremely competitive and anxious when it comes to tumour markers. The first question that virtually every patients asks is 'how's my tumour marker?'"
"If we can give patients a sense of control of the tumour marker that would improve anxiety, it improves the quality of the conversation between the doctor and the patient," Prof Obermair said.
The CA-125 app is named after the CA-125 protein which is produced by ovarian cancer cells and shed into the blood stream where it can be detected.
Commonly referred to as a 'tumour marker', CA-125 levels are monitored through regular blood tests before, during and after treatment to track cancer progress.
Patients can now enter their tumour maker scores it into the app and basically follow how it trends over time in response to treatment.
Prof Obermair says this can provide enormous reassurance to an anxious patient.
"The message that I get is that patients feel a sense of control, a sense of self empowerment and also reassurance because markers do trend up and down," he said.
"If the marker is 13 and it was 10 the last time then the patient gets upset, but having the ability to scroll back to see that it was 16 maybe three months before provides reassurance. They can actually see that this slight up and down is perfectly normal," said Prof Obermair.
It's also hoped the new app will assist in earlier detection of cancer re-occurrence .
"Sometimes when we detect a re-occurrence early we can treat it much better," said Prof Obermair.
The CA-125 app will also be used to gather data to be made available to gynaecological cancer researchers with the consent of users.
Proceeds from sales will go to the Australian charity Cherish Women's Cancer Foundation for other gynaecological cancer research projects.