Optimizing cancer care for women is the aim of a new mobile app designed to help doctors more quickly and accurately evaluate the extent of cancer in female reproductive organs and select the appropriate treatment. Presented today at a side event held at the 60th IAEA General Conference, the app is available for use on iPhone and Android devices.
“One of the major challenges faced by clinicians is to determine the most effective treatments for their patient, ensuring optimal conditions at minimal risk,” said Diana Paez, Head of the Nuclear Medicine and Diagnostic Imaging Section at the IAEA. “New innovations like this gynaecological cancer staging app help to address that challenge by bringing key information right to doctor’s finger tips.” The application also includes investigation and management strategies based on best practices as endorsed by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO).
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, with approximately 14 million new cases and 8 million cancer-related deaths each year. Gynaecological cancers encompass a diverse group of tumours originating in the female reproductive organs — the vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and the ovaries. It is estimated that every year over 1 million cases and half a million deaths worldwide are due to gynaecological cancers.
“Pivotal elements for addressing the cancer burden worldwide are early detection and accurate diagnosis, precise evaluation of disease extent, and appropriate selection of a treatment approach,” Paez said.
If cancer is diagnosed, doctors can use the new app to further plan treatment according to the globally recognized cancer staging and management guidelines by FIGO. These guidelines represent a standardized system based on expert consensus and updated to reflect medicine’s evolving knowledge of gynaecological cancer. It is a system of criteria that draws on a wide range of medical tests and key variables related to the tumour, including its size and location, and whether the cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body (metastasis).
These key variables are then considered together, taking particular consideration for any spread outside the original location of the tumour. The results are typically expressed as stages ranging from one to four, with several sub-stages. The doctors then use the stages to decide whether surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or any other form of treatment is most appropriate for the patient.
“Doctors can take advantage of the user-friendly interface presented in this smart phone application that uses FIGO cancer management guidelines,” Paez said. “This app will aid them in defining the disease stage and planning the most appropriate treatment accordingly. It also provides a common technical language, so no matter where in the world, physicians can use this same language to find the best patient management strategies.”
The new app is useful for a range of medical specialist including gynaecologists, oncologists, pathologists and surgeons.
“Physicians can plug in the key details about a patient’s tumour into the app, even when the app is offline, and interactively and quickly find the information they need,” said Neerja Bhatla, a gynaecologist from FIGO. “While it’s a small step, it’s an important one, because it helps to further shorten the gap in access to quality care worldwide.”
Cancer management is an important strand of the IAEA’s work worldwide. The Agency assists countries in developing comprehensive cancer control programmes, and also provides equipment, training, education and expert guidance to medical staff for using radiation medicine toward fighting cancer. This work also contributes to helping countries achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the target of reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, by one third by 2030.
The app was developed by the IAEA in cooperation with FIGO, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Tata Memorial Centre of India. The Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology for Asia and the Pacific (RCA) provided financial support for its development.