Today, there are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, with 268,600 new cases expected to be diagnosed this year alone. With an estimated 89% of United States online and 72% owning smartphones, digital health technologies are uniquely situated to bridge the gap in breast cancer care through detection, intervention, and management. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I dug a little deeper to highlight some of the most promising digital health solutions to promote early detection and improve patient care for breast cancer patients and survivors.
Why do we need to emphasize early detection?
It is estimated that, in the United States this year, nearly 269,000 women—and almost 3,000 men—will be diagnosed with breast cancer. And, although death rates have been decreasing for the past two decades, approximately 42,000 brave female warriors will lose their battle this year. With breast cancer being the most commonly diagnosed and deadliest cancer among women, one of the best tools to support female patients is early detection.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the average mammogram costs $150. Yet, in the United States, current gaps in funding leave 1 in 10 women uninsured, making $150—the difference between early detection or too-little-too-late—just out of reach. Digital health can step in to bridge that gap, advance detection technology, decrease costs, and save women. Here are some local companies and organizations looking to lead the charge and support early detection:
Imagine Elise, a 40-year-old mother who discovers a lump on her breast, makes an appointment with her physician who takes a sample and sends it out to a pathologist. The pathologist must make a critical decision; Does Elise have breast cancer or not? Path AI, founded in Boston, MA, is utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to improve both the accuracy and speed of pathologist diagnoses and ensure patients get the right diagnosis and the most effective treatment.
Did you know Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab developed a new deep learning-based AI prediction model that can anticipate the development of breast cancer up to five years in advance? This innovative technology, trained on over 90,000 mammograms and 600,000 patient outcomes, can accurately predict over 30% of all cancer patients in the highest-risk category compared to the 18% detected by current models.
In developing its technique, MIT sought to address disparities in detection inequality among minorities; Black women are more than 42% more likely than white women to die from breast cancer, a statistic driven largely by the lack of minority representation in current early detection techniques. By creating a model that assesses health risks more accurately for minorities, who are often not well represented in the development of deep learning models, MIT is bridging that gap and working to save all women.
“One of the most powerful things that you can do to ensure that you have an efficient and effective breast cancer screening experience, is to get your hands on your own records”. This advice comes from the Director of Consumer Products & Markets for Life Image. Life Image is the creator of Mammosphere, a breast imaging and cancer prevention application that lets patients digitally transfer records to and from health care providers at the click of a button. 1 in 4 patients fail to gather their records in a timely manner, skyrocketing the risk of being called back for additional testing or receiving a false positive.
Life Image, based in Newton MA, reduces the number of false positives for breast cancer by up to 60% and drives up patients’ chances of receiving an efficient and accurate diagnosis. In fact, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this service is completely free of charge for Massachusetts women. Spread the word! This could be the difference between early detection and an inaccurate diagnosis!
How can digital health support breast cancer patients?
1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Even with innovative developments in detection and intervention, it is inevitable that some women will be living with breast cancer. Learn about three female-founded digital health solutions that can aid patients in their daily activities while living with the disease.
Untire, founded by Door Vonk, is an app that provides cancer patients and survivors with the tools to cope with extreme fatigue. As a result of cancer, its medical treatments, and the emotional and social impact of such a severe illness causes patients to suffer from severe fatigue. Developed by psychologists with contributions of patients and researchers, Untire uses scientifically proven theories and mindfulness-based techniques to increase cancer patients’ energy and improve their lives. With less fatigue, cancer patients can fight cancer without sacrificing their enjoyment of life.
By leveraging a team of oncology nutrition experts and the latest technology, Savor Health—founded by Susan Bratton—designs individually personalized nutrition solutions to meet the unique needs of cancer patients at every step along their journey. This innovative technology utilizes deep learning models to promote algorithm-driven meal and content recommendations and nutritional counseling through a team of oncology credentialed registered dietitians and nurses.
According to CEO and founder Jasvir Zonobi, every cancer is unique and thus it should be treated as a chronic disease rather than a terminal one. Kuveda’s clinical decision support and analytics cloud platform provides evidence-based cancer treatment recommendation and therapeutic options using a patient’s unique molecular profile. This innovative technology generates results in minutes, is scalable for use across millions of patients, and is cost effective.
What is the future of breast cancer and digital health?
Innovations in mobile health and social media applications are occurring across the cancer spectrum, from primary prevention to screening, early diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and end-of-life care. Thousands of health-oriented mobile sites and apps have already been developed with advantages of low- or no-cost, high scalability, self-tracking and tailored feedback functionalities, use of images and video for enhanced health literacy, broad reach, and data sharing for large-scale analytics.
More and more, research is demonstrating that digital health interventions can support and improve patient experiences and outcomes. For breast cancer patients and survivors, digital health technology can ultimately increase their chances of a good quality of life and positive health outcomes. In the battle against breast cancer, digital health may just be the secret weapon women need to throw the knockout punch and win the fight.