Can a Wellness App Help People With Lung Cancer?

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 25, 2021
5 min read

Thanks to earlier detection, gene testing, and new treatments, people with lung cancer are living longer, healthier lives. Deaths from the most common type of lung cancer fell by 6.3% every year from 2013 through 2016, according to a study published in August 2020.

If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer, it’s important to think about steps you can take -- in partnership with your doctor -- to manage your care and maintain a healthy lifestyle so you can live well for as long as possible. One type of tool that can help: mobile apps.

“Apps are like your own personal mini-medical record,” says Cedric “Jamie” Rutland, MD, a pulmonary and critical care doctor in California and a national spokesperson for the American Lung Association. “They can take all the information about you, your condition, your treatment, and other important topics and organize it in a way that’s easily accessible.”

Apps can also offer education about your disease and, in some cases, connect you with your medical care team or a supportive community of other people living with the condition.

There are three basic categories of apps that you might want to consider: those aimed specifically at people with lung cancer; apps designed for people with a variety of cancers, including lung cancer; and more general health and support apps.

“When you think about what kind of apps you might want to use, consider what it is you want the app to do,” says Susan Peterson, PhD, MPH, a professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “If you’re newly diagnosed, you may want help in managing appointments, monitoring side effects of treatments, and maintaining medication reminders. As you proceed into long-term survivorship, you may be more interested in social, psychological, and emotional concerns along with more long-term side effects and things that may be specific to the type of treatment you had, like fertility issues. There’s probably no one single app that can address all of these, so you may want to use more than one.”

Several apps are in the research and development stage, Peterson says. But at the moment, there’s only one fully developed mobile app designed specifically for the needs of people with lung cancer: Lung Cancer Navigator, created by the nonprofit LUNGevity Foundation.

This free app helps with practical tasks such as medication, symptom, and appointment tracking; provides a “lung cancer 101” guide to understanding the disease and its diagnosis and treatment; and prompts you with useful hints such as questions to ask your doctor.

“You can also allow family and friends to be part of your circle and see when you have an upcoming appointment or test, and chat directly with them in the app,” says Katie Brown, vice president of support and survivorship programs for the LUNGevity Foundation. “It also allows you to connect directly to our large online patient support community.”

Lung Cancer Navigator is available for iOS and Android devices.

Several national cancer organizations have created apps to help people with different forms of the disease. These include:

  • Mobile, an award-winning app from the American Society for Clinical Oncology. It allows users to track symptoms, log medications (including photo records of labels and bottles), keep up with appointments, and export and share your data with your chosen doctors with “My Health Report.” (Available for iOS and Android.)
  • Pocket Cancer Care Guide from the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. You can use this guide to browse hundreds of questions in categories for each stage of cancer diagnosis, build lists of questions to ask your doctor, record and play back your doctor’s answers, and link medical appointments to your lists and automatically add them to your calendar. (iOS only.)
  • The National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s (NCCN) Patient Guides for Cancer offers patient-friendly versions of the NCCN’s gold-standard guidelines for health care professionals. On this app, you’ll find step-by-step guides to cancer treatment options, questions to ask your doctors, and easy-to-understand illustrations. (iOS and Android.)
  • NCCN Reimbursement Resource. With the cost of cancer care continuing to rise, the NCCN’s app helps you search for resources and patient assistance programs. (iOS and Android.)
  • BELONG Cancer. Recommended by the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NCFR), this app helps you find support groups for your specific type of cancer, as well as offering access to leading researchers who can answer your questions in sections like “ask the imaging expert” and “ask the oncologist.” You can also use it to organize your files and documents, find support groups, and find clinical trials. (iOS and Android.)

Many major cancer centers such as MD Anderson or Memorial Sloan-Kettering offer their own apps that are specifically designed for their patients, allowing them to connect directly and securely to their medical information and communicate with their providers. Ask your doctor if there are any apps available through their hospital or health system.

Among the thousands of general medical and health-related apps now available, a few might be particularly useful to people with lung cancer:

  • CaringBridge, a social networking site for health journey communications used by more than 300,000 people daily, has an app that lets you share diagnoses, treatment updates, and milestones with a selected group of family and friends, rather than posting on public social media or trying to keep up with lots of individual texts and calls. (iOS and Android.)
  • Medication Guide. This app lets you look up drug information, identify pills, check interactions, and set up personal medication records. (iOS and Android.)
  • Moodfit. Cancer can affect your mental health, too. The NCFR recommends this “mental health fitness” app aimed at caring for your mental well-being. It lets you set daily mental wellness goals and gives you actionable insights into what brings you up and down. It also offers tools to boost your mood, including mindfulness, breathing, gratitude journaling, and interactive cognitive behavioral therapy. (iOS and Android.)

All of these apps are free to download, although some may have in-app purchases.

Before downloading and using any health-related app, Peterson advises making sure it’s coming from a reputable source. “There are many sources that will provide advice on nutrition, wellness, and other things for people facing serious illnesses such as cancer, but their advice may or may not be appropriate,” she says. “To be sure that the information in your app is accurate and evidence-based, look to see that it’s vetted by knowledgeable authorities such as major cancer-related organizations or medical centers. It’s also always a good idea to vet apps like these with your doctor.”