July 26, 2017

Duke launches Cancer Distress Coach, a mobile app available for iOS and Android devices, to help manage the stress related to a cancer diagnosis. 

A multidisciplinary team at Duke, including principal investigator Sophia Smith (Duke School of Nursing) and mobile app developers, Mike Revoir and Jamie Daniel, at Duke Institute for Health Innovation have developed the Cancer Distress Coach app. It launched in June and is available to anyone in the United States who’s 18 or older and who has either received a cancer diagnosis or cared for someone with cancer. The app uses guided imagery, meditation exercises, inspirational quotes, music and photos to help patients and their caregivers learn about symptoms and available resources, understand their level of stress, build a network of support and gain coping skills to help manage stress in the moment, in a randomized control trial (RCT) built on ResearchKit and ResearchStack, Apple and Google’s respective frameworks for research on mobile devices.

The app, which is currently available nationally for download on the App store and Google Play, is an expansion and redesign of a predecessor that Sophia Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing at Duke, and a team of researchers developed in partnership with the National Center for PTSD and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They tested the app in 2015-16 with 31 Duke cancer patients. Results from that study indicated that most participants (86 percent) found the app reduced their anxiety and provided practical solutions to PTSD symptoms. 

Aguinita Aiken was one of those patients and says the app helped her overcome the panic attacks and fear of socializing she developed in the wake of her breast cancer diagnosis in late 2014. 

“The app really helped me through my crisis,” Aiken said. “In particular, I found the resources that helped me calm down and do breathing exercises very helpful. I learned coping strategies and it was helpful to have reminders and encouragement to take care of myself.” 

Now, by offering the app on both the App Store and Google Play, the app is available to a broader, national audience of survivors, patients and their families. As users download and use Cancer Distress Coach, their experiences will inform a national study that Smith and team are leading to investigate the effectiveness of stress-reduction tools when delivered via a mobile app. The researchers hope the app will one day be offered as a standard part of cancer care.


For inquires about Cancer Distress Coach please contact Krista Whalen (krista.whalen@duke.edu)