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World-first online breast cancer community developed to launch

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The NZ Breast Cancer Foundation will tomorrow launch mybc, a mobile app and website believed to be the first of its kind in the world, for New Zealanders affected by breast cancer. It’s an online community that also provides access to specialist nurses and private portals for members to track their own breast cancer experience.

mybc’s community, with sub-communities for different breast cancer patient groups, is a place for people to connect and share experiences with others like them. But it’s much more than that: members can book individual video, audio or live-chat appointments with a breastcare nurse; and can store medical records and track personal progress and milestones in their own private portal. All members can participate in Living Well, a survivorship programme designed to help people return to "normal" life after breast cancer. In addition, a wide range of articles, videos and web resources will provide extended information on a range of topics.

"Women often tell us, ‘I couldn’t find anyone else like me,’ whether they mean their kind of breast cancer, or someone in the same family circumstances. So we’ve been wrestling for a while with the challenge of helping people find each other, no matter where they are in our spread-out country," said NZ Breast Cancer Foundation chief executive Evangelia Henderson. "We were also keenly aware that people outside our cities don’t get to connect with specialist breastcare nurses as much as they’d like. We looked at the various apps and online platforms around the world, but didn’t see any that did what we wanted."

The NZBCF felt that women should be able to engage with their own progress to whatever extent suits them. mybc lets them track privately whatever measures they want, for example, energy, happiness, treatment side-effects. They can then choose to share that information with their medical team or friends and supporters - or not.

"We were also very keen to add in a survivorship programme, because we hear from women that when the health system cuts them loose, it can be difficult to pick up the threads of normal life. Plus, they often want to make long-term lifestyle changes, and if they stay on hormone treatment for 10 years, as many do, there can be issues around living with that. Basically, breast cancer changes your life, and we’re acknowledging that with our Living Well programme," Mrs Henderson said.

In the end, rather than use an off-the-shelf product, the NZBCF decided to go its own way, and engaged specialist digital health company Melon Health, a Kiwi company with offices in the USA. Melon’s clinically-validated patient engagement platform combines peer support, live video visits with health coaches and clinicians, remote monitoring and behaviour change modification..

"The finished product is even better than we expected," Mrs Henderson said. "It’s just so different from, and so much better than, anything else out there."

Supporters of breast cancer patients also have access to mybc, but in a more limited way. They can’t join the community, but can make appointments with a nurse and can access resources.

New Zealanders can sign up to mybc at, or, later in the week, download the app from the iTunes store or Google Play.

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