How (and Why) to Use Health Tracking Tools During Cancer Care
When you’re dealing with a cancer diagnosis, it’s natural to focus your attention on major aspects of your cancer treatment, like chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery. However, many routines of daily life also impact your health and help support your cancer treatment. This can include remembering to take your medications as prescribed, eating well, getting enough sleep and appropriate physical activity, and tending to your emotional health. It also includes noting and handling any symptoms or side effects of treatment in collaboration with your healthcare team.
If managing all of this sounds like a tall order, that’s understandable. It is challenging enough for many people to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep without the added stressors of cancer treatment. This is where health tracking tools can be a huge help. Tracking how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing on a regular basis can help you recognize changes or trends in your health before serious problems arise. Referring to your tracking data can facilitate more thorough, accurate communication with your healthcare providers and allow them to better tailor treatment to your needs.
Here are some of the items it can be helpful to track during cancer treatment:
Symptoms & Side Effects
Cancer treatments often come with symptoms and side effects. While some may be expected and unavoidable, others may be important signals to your healthcare team that an adjustment is needed to your care. And many side effects of cancer treatment can be addressed with medication or self-care techniques. Your home page in Jasper Health includes a tracker tool for Symptoms & Side Effects that prompts you to record anything you notice each day. After you’ve made three entries, you can view a chart showing trends in your reports and giving you an average of those symptoms. All of this helps to identify a baseline of those symptoms based on your profile. We recommend reviewing these charts on your own and at regular appointments with your healthcare providers, since they can be more specific and accurate than relying on just your memory (especially if you’re experiencing the cognitive difficulties of chemobrain). Whenever a symptom or side effect is bothersome, bring it up with your healthcare team. They can help you sort out what the cause is and how best to address it.
It’s crucial to take your medications according to your doctor’s instructions. In Jasper Health, you can add medications, including dosing and schedule. Once you’ve entered this information, Jasper will prompt you to record whether you’ve taken each dose as prescribed. We recommend entering both prescription and over-the-counter medications and any supplements you are taking as well – and always talk to your healthcare team about everything you are taking. Along with creating a record of your medications, the Medication tracker tool in Jasper can serve as a reminder to help you follow your doctor’s instructions. When used alongside the Symptoms & Side Effects tracker, it can also help reveal links between how you feel and what you’re taking over time. We recommend sharing this tracking information with your healthcare provider at your appointments. If you find you’re having trouble taking your medication as prescribed, read our tips for remembering to take your meds and talk to your healthcare team if needed.
Cancer and cancer treatment can definitely impact your emotions, and mental health issues like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common among people dealing with cancer. Your mental health matters – it’s an essential element of quality of life. It can impact your physical health too, by affecting appetite, sleep, activity levels and more. This is why Jasper Health has a built-in tracker for Mood, accessible on the home page, that prompts you to track your emotional landscape each day. It’s normal to have some difficult emotions during cancer treatment, but if you experience a significant downward trend in your mood over time, or your mood is impacting your functioning, bring this up with your healthcare team. There are resources available to improve your emotional well-being, from self-care techniques to counseling and medication, and there’s no reason to suffer unnecessarily if you’re struggling. The Mood tracker can help reveal long-term trends in your emotional wellness that are worth discussing with a healthcare provider.
Cancer and cancer treatment can lead to a variety of eating problems, from appetite changes to nausea and other side effects. It’s important to get enough nutrition and eat well during your cancer treatment, so if you find that your eating habits or weight are changing, discuss this with your healthcare team. They should be able to offer advice or they may refer you to a dietician if needed. If nutrition becomes an ongoing challenge, tracking what you eat and when can be a helpful way to better manage your nutrition in collaboration with your healthcare providers.
Getting enough rest is always important to your health, but especially when you’re going through a high-stress experience like cancer. If you have a wearable fitness tracker like a Fitbit or even a smartphone with a sleep tracker, this can offer helpful insights about the amount of rest you’re getting over time. Check your device for trends and draw on those insights in a discussion with your healthcare team if you’re having trouble sleeping. You can now connect your Fitbit directly to Jasper to access this information all in one place. Go to the Connections page under Apps & Devices in Profiles.
Regular physical activity can boost your mood, sleep and appetite and is essential to your overall health and well-being. Talk to your healthcare team to come up with reasonable goals for physical activity during each phase of treatment, and use a step counter or other physical activity tracker to help you stay motivated and keep up with healthy habits. Using a tracker has been shown to increase physical activity, along with simply providing a record of how much exercise you’re getting. If you have a Fitbit, you can connect it with Jasper to integrate your physical activity information into your experience of the app without making manual entries.
The Bottom Line
Tracking tools can be an asset when you’re managing the complexities of cancer care. They can create a more accurate record of various aspects of your health to inform conversations with your healthcare team. They can help reveal long-term trends you might not notice otherwise. If you track multiple items, these can sometimes show links between different aspects of your health, like mood improvements when you’re more physically active, or a worsening of a certain side effect after increasing a dose of medication. These can help you and your healthcare professionals adjust your care accordingly. Tracking tools can also serve as reminders and motivators to keep up with healthy habits, like taking your medication as prescribed and keeping up with a daily walking routine.
If you’re new to health tracking, start with Jasper’s built-in tools for recording Medications, Mood and Symptoms & Side Effects. They’re built to be simple and quick to use, and to capture information that’s most helpful to you and your healthcare team.
On that note, we recommend that you review your Jasper insight report within Jasper on a weekly basis. In addition, prior to an appointment with a provider you can reach out to the Jasper Care Navigator team and review the report for additional help. Our complimentary navigator program is a personalized one-on-one care program designed to support individuals like you living with cancer by offering telephone-based, chat or zoom call coaching by our Jasper Care Navigation team. This service provides education, support and guidance to empower you to become an informed participant in your cancer care.