Yale breast cancer study uses texting to continue treatment

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — For most people, like Liz Fisher, a cell phone is always close by. A text message to the breast cancer patient helps her stay on track with her treatment.

“I’ve no family history of any kind of illness and I’ve never been a pill taker,” she said. “I don’t take anything.”

Fisher has to take the drug Femara daily to prevent her cancer from returning. To help get into a routine, she signed up for the Breast Cancer Endocrine Therapy Adherence study, or BETA, at the Yale Cancer Center.

“There is so much that’s new when you suddenly have cancer that one more new thing, taking, knowing that you have a medication every single day without fail regardless, that reminder is important,” she said.

A text is sent daily to her phone, asking if she’s taken her medication.

“There’s a lot of data out there that says that maybe even as many as a quarter of patients don’t take their medication as prescribed,” said lead investigator Dr. Sarah Mougalian.

There’s also a weekly text asking participants about side effects and to rate the intensity. It’s followed by real-time intervention.

“You don’t feel silly raising things that might not be important enough to bring up when you’re actually having a meeting with your doctor,” said Fisher.

“Many patients may just say ‘scrap it, I’m going to stop my medication until I see my doctor,’ and that could be three months away,'” said Dr. Mougalian.

Fisher never missed a day.

“I took the pill every single day without fail,” she said. “On one occasion, the reminder got to me before I had taken it, so I’m not sure if I would have missed or not missed.”

“The goal of this therapy is to cure patients of their cancer,” said Dr. Mougalian. “If they don’t take the medication as prescribed, they increase their risk that their cancer comes back.”

Women on the BETA study are on it for three months. The hope is that the interactive technology will become standard care for breast cancer.

Dr. Mougalian is looking for more women to take part. For more information, contact study coordinator Lianne Epstein at lianne.epstein@yale.edu or call 203-785-2087.

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